Clinton-Obama Battle Moves to Wisconsin

Former first lady hopes to break Illinois senator's winning streak.

Feb. 19, 2008 — -- Campaigning in Wisconsin, Sen. Hillary Clinton is trying to slow some of the momentum Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has going into Tuesday's primaries in both Wisconsin and Hawaii.

Polls suggest a tight race in Wisconsin with Obama holding a small, five-point lead over the New York senator, according to a recent Research 2000 poll conducted for Madison's WISC-TV. Obama is also thought to have an edge in Hawaii, where he grew up.

"Wisconsin's a competitive race," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters on a conference call today.

Obama has won the last eight consecutive primary contests, giving him a huge boost of momentum and allowing him to pull ahead of Clinton in pledged delegates to the party's convention in August.

Plouffe argued a win in Wisconsin would move Obama further ahead in their delegate battle with Clinton and would quiet opponents who have credited his wins to black voters and high-income, urban Democrats.

Clinton counts Hispanic voters, low-income Democrats, white women and rural voters among her core supporters.

"This is a state where by their own definition you've got heavy blue-collar portions of the electorate, you've got a lot of rural areas. … This is a playing field that by their own language would tilt in their favor and we're going to try to do as well as we can tomorrow," Plouffe said.

Clinton Campaign Downplays Expectations

The Clinton campaign downplayed expectations for Wisconsin today, arguing its focus is winning the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas that vote March 4.

"I do not subscribe to the momentum theory of American politics," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters on another conference call, which was held at the same time Plouffe was talking up reporters covering the Obama campaign.

"We feel very good about Ohio and Texas, which are the next big contests that vote after Wisconsin and Hawaii," Wolfson said.

Political watchers say Wisconsin's open primary system could favor Obama.

"Wisconsin's going to be tough [for Clinton], even though those polls are close. You can show up at the polls and register in Wisconsin. Independents can vote in the Democratic primary — those are the Obama voters," ABC News' Cokie Roberts said today on "Good Morning America."

Secret Meeting

Clinton today tried to make up for campaign events in Wisconsin that were scrubbed over the weekend due to a snowstorm that prevented her and Obama from campaigning there as planned.

The former first lady unveiled an economic plan today targeting middle-class voters important in votes in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Her 13-page economic plan details the her ideas for developing middle-class jobs, addressing the home foreclosure crisis and achieving universal health care.

The plan has been posted online and will be distributed to voters at campaign events.

Obama spends most of his day campaigning in Ohio today and will hold an event in Wisconsin later tonight. The Illinois senator flew for a meeting with former Sen. John Edwards at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, whose endorsement both candidates are seeking.

The battle for Wisconsin has gone negative in recent weeks with Clinton launching attack ads against Obama in the state urging him to debate her. Former President Clinton and former first daughter Chelsea Clinton have spent significant time in the state lobbying for Clinton.

"If she pulled it out in Wisconsin, that would be a big upset and that would be very good for her but that's a huge if," Roberts said. "Ohio and Texas are key. If she doesn't win there, I don't see how she stays in."

Meanwhile Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was in Texas today where he picked up the endorsement of former President Bush today in Texas, which could further bolster McCain's attempt to win over conservatives in the GOP unsure about his record on taxes, gay marriage and immigration.

"No one is better prepared to lead our nation at these trying times than Sen. John McCain," Bush said, standing alongside McCain. "His character was forged in the crucible of war. His commitment to America is beyond any doubt. But most importantly, he has the right character and values to guide our nation."

Clinton Faces Must-Wins in Ohio, Texas

While Clinton is ahead of Obama in the latest polls in Ohio, the Clinton campaign expressed concern about the Democratic Party's proportional delegate count system in Texas.

Under party rules, Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes in districts where there is a sizeable population of Hispanics, but gain only a small edge in delegates, while a win by Obama in the more urban districts in Dallas and Houston could yield far more delegates.

Veteran political strategist Matthew Dowd said Clinton faces an uphill battle in her quest for the Democratic nomination.

"In order for her to succeed now, Barack either has to have engine trouble or run out of gas," the ABC News contributor told "Good Morning America."

"Part of the race now is out of her hands because of the momentum he has gained over the last two weeks."