Hillary’s race picks up pace as Obama falters

Fresh funding, crucial backing from a governor and strong ratings boost her campaign.

WITH the tide seemingly turning in her favour, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun refining her strategy for the remaining primaries to oust her rival Barack Obama from the nomination process.

The New York senator’s campaign for the White House received a boost on several fronts in the past week.

A national poll by the Associated Press gave her a nine-point edge over Republican candidate John McCain if the general election were to be held today.

This is biggest margin she has received in any recent poll. The same poll put Mr Obama in a statistical dead-heat with the Arizona senator.

As well, Mrs Clinton has won fresh funding and crucial endorsements. The increasing flak that Mr Barack Obama is getting over the issue of race is also working in her favour.

The primaries on May 6 in North Carolina and Indiana are critical and signs indicate that her campaign is gathering momentum in both states.

Her game plan now is to keep the race going for as long as possible to sow doubts about Mr Obama in the eyes of not just voters but also Democratic Party leaders and the all-important superdelegates who will likely decide the nomination in the tightly contested race.

In rallies, TV ads and briefings to reporters in Indiana and North Carolina over the last week, Mrs Clinton and her aides are pushing the case that she has more support and are highlighting her campaign’s newfound fundraising strength.

Her team reported that it raised US$10 million (S$13.4 million) just days after the former first lady won the Pennsylvania primary last Tuesday.

More significantly, Mrs Clinton’s team contends that Mr Obama is struggling to win support from voters – especially white, blue-collar workers – who will be critical to a Democratic victory in the election.

If her challenger is facing problems winning this core constituency, Mrs Clinton is reinforcing her grip on them by keeping to an earlier strategy that has thus far yielded results in several states including Pennsylvania and Ohio.

She is playing to the insecurities of America’s working class.

By focusing on voter fears about globalisation and job losses in troubled industries, observers said she has cultivated more support among factory workers and others worried about US competitiveness.

To some extent, it is having an effect.

In North Carolina, a new survey this week put Mr Obama’s lead over Mrs Clinton at only five percentage points. And in Indiana, too, he seems to be only narrowly ahead.

And, on Tuesday, North Carolina’s Governor Mike Easley offered critical backing to Mrs Clinton.

Such developments take place against a backdrop of Mr Obama’s campaign stuttering following the controversy over the issue of race generated by his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Yet observers contend it will not be a cakewalk for Mrs Clinton.

Mr Charlie Cook, the editor and publisher of the National Journal, noted: “If this contest were still at the point where momentum, symbolism and reading tea leaves mattered, Clinton would be in pretty good shape.

“Everything she has needed to happen is happening now. Obama is getting tougher press coverage and critical examination. He’s also getting rattled a bit…Clinton is winning in big, important places, but it’s happening about three months too late.”

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