Clinton takes less direct tack in last days before vote

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's tone was lighter and her digs at rival Barack Obama relatively gentle Sunday as she made her closing arguments across Ohio and prepared to fly to Texas.

Clinton described herself as "a fighter, a doer and a champion" of working people who is "ready and able to protect and defend" the country.

"I'm not interested in just talking," she said here in the economically devastated Youngstown area. "I'm interested in action."

After 11 straight state nomination losses to Obama, the New York senator is hoping that victories in the two states — the big prizes in today's round of primaries — will revive her candidacy.

Speaking to about 1,000 people in Austinville, Clinton called today's election "one of the most important we've ever had" and asked voters to treat it as a hiring decision. Who would you hire, she asked, to end the war in Iraq, revive the economy and get health coverage for everyone.

Polls showed Democrats in Texas and Ohio are split nearly evenly on the two candidates.

Obama has a slight edge in Texas; Clinton has one in Ohio. Clinton advisers, including her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have said she needs to win both states to remain viable.

After days of sharp attacks, including her angry "Shame on you, Barack Obama" lecture over Obama fliers she said distorted her positions, Clinton made only passing references to "my opponent."

To rising cheers in Akron, she said she didn't want to be "one of these people running for office, you got the bright lights, all these cameras," everybody feels good and then says "that was beautiful — but what did it mean? What's going to happen? What can I count on? How's it going to change my life? So that's why I've been very specific."

Clinton's softer approach of the final days included a weekend stint on NBC's Saturday Night Live and an appearance on Comedy Central's Daily Show set for tonight.

In her speech Sunday, Clinton wove in stories about how she had helped military families and promoted her plan to provide health care coverage to all Americans. Clinton had three events in school gyms Sunday. Only one, in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, drew an overflow crowd.

Rallying several thousand canvassers preparing to knock on doors for her, Clinton said to applause and laughter that "one thing you know about me, I am not afraid to get into a fight on your behalf."

Clinton was introduced here by Kelly Pavlik, a champion middleweight boxer.

"The same kind of comeback that he's had as a champion is what we want for Youngstown and Ohio," Clinton said.

"You know, in life you get knocked down from time to time," she said.

"I have seen in the last weeks the resilience and the grit and the determination of the people of Youngstown and across Ohio, and we're coming back."