Hillary’s battle not over

She’s determined to soldier on even if she does not do well in crucial Ohio and Texas primaries today.

IT WON’T be over till it’s over.

Democratic contender Hillary Clinton has said she will fight for the White House nomination no matter what the outcome of the primary contests in Texas and Ohio today.

Battling to rejuvenate her flagging campaign, she and her team are bracing themselves for even more state-by-state warfare that will take the contest down to the wire.

Her spokesman Howard Wolfson said at the weekend: “We are going to have a great day on Tuesday. We are going to win this nomination. This nomination fight is going to go forward after Ohio and Texas.

“We are going to go to Pennsylvania in April, where a lot more Americans are going to vote, and we are going to be the nominee in Denver (at the convention).”

A day of reckoning is approaching for the former first lady, who has tumbled from being an all-but-certain presidential nominee to a desperate candidate fighting for a political lifeline.

Anything other than sweeping victories today would spell more trouble for her and possibly signal the end of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But Mrs Clinton is intent on prolonging her Waterloo. This, despite the stunning rise of her challenger Barack Obama, who has whittled away at the advantages she held over the last six months.

Last August, she was the absolute front runner, enjoying an 18 per cent lead in the polls over Mr Obama. Her big lead in national surveys is now gone following a string of defeats in early primary states and a draw on Super Tuesday.

She then lost 11 contests in a row to the charismatic Illinois senator whose appeal has cut across nearly every major demographic line – including women.

The sheer consistency of his victories in several states in recent weeks suggests that many Democratic voters have overcome reservations they might have had about his candidacy.

Texas and Ohio are no exception. Mrs Clinton has lost her wide leads in both these states, with new polls showing their contests in dead heat.

In Texas, a Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll released last Saturday showed Mr Obama leading 45 per cent to 43 per cent. Texas was supposed to be Clinton country, where they had historic ties to black and Hispanic voters.

But Mr Obama, according to the poll, had taken big bites out of the Clinton coalition by splitting the white vote and winning sweeping support from black voters, and increasingly among Hispanics.

In Ohio, a new Cleveland Plain Dealer/Mason-Dixon poll showed Mrs Clinton ahead 47 per cent to 43 per cent. Her supporters are optimistic about a victory there.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who has campaigned across the state with the New York senator, said: “I think we have survived the initial blast of the Obama phenomenon, and we are now holding steady.”

Mrs Clinton appeared to be facing her last stand with guns blazing.

She threw herself into what could be her final weekend of campaigning with energy and drive unseen since the opening of the contest two months ago. She poured millions into campaign adverts in Texas and Ohio to try to keep her White House dream alive.

She battered Mr Obama on issues ranging from his lack of foreign policy experience to dealings with a dubious Chicago property developer.

“We have to win on Tuesday,” she told voters in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday. “That is not a surprise to any of you. And we are going to win.”

If she were to win both states, her candidacy would come alive again, her status confirmed as the preferred choice of the big electoral-vote states needed for a general election victory. And Democrats would face the spectre for a prolonged nomination battle that threatens to tear apart the party.

Indeed, Mrs Clinton and her advisers are looking beyond this week’s primaries. The campaign has not released a formal schedule beyond today, but she plans to visit Wyoming, which holds its contest on Saturday. The Clinton campaign has already opened offices in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary on April 22, and is looking further ahead with offices in North Carolina and Puerto Rico, which hold their contests on May 6 and June 7 respectively.

Senior Democrats have suggested that if she loses either Texas or Ohio, they would urge her to withdraw so the party could unite in challenging Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. Increasingly, as uncertainty colours the Democratic race, the 796 unelected super-delegates – party leaders and elected officials who have an automatic seat at the national convention in August – ultimately hold the balance of power.

Over the past week, several of them have given their support to Mr Obama.

Expect more to defect if Mrs Clinton loses in Texas or Ohio.

Democratic elder John Lewis, one of several who switched support to Mr Obama, said: “I want to be on the side of the people, on the side of the spirit of history.”

But for Mrs Clinton, the game is still not over. She appears determined to make history.

“I think we have survived the initial blast of the Obama phenomenon, and we are now holding steady.”
OHIO GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND, a supporter of Mrs Clinton, on her slim lead in his state.

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