Super Tuesday unlikely to settle Obama-Clinton race
The former first lady's imposing national lead among Democratic voters faded leading up to the 22-state sweepstakes.
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Clinton built her Feb. 5 strategy around four states: California, where 370 delegates are up for grabs; New York, with 232 delegates, where she is senator; New Jersey, home to many New York commuters; and Arkansas, where she was first lady.Skip to next paragraph
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Obama is counting on a decisive victory in his home state of Illinois, with 153 delegates, but is otherwise taking broader aim across the electoral map. His campaign is targeting "red states" in the heartland, where voters may be wary of Clinton. It is also putting its organizational muscle to work in six states holding caucuses Tuesday, including Minnesota, where Obama's ads tap into strong antiwar sentiment.
Feb. 5 "is quite likely to be muddled," says Lawrence Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Victories in places like Kansas, Idaho, and Colorado, he says, "would add a clear story line where Obama can talk about winning in parts of the country, including the upper Midwest, which will clearly be a battleground in the general election."
Though voters are split between the Democratic front-runners, they mostly agree on their top issue: the economy. A race that looked at first like a referendum on the Iraq war is increasingly focused on healthcare costs, job security, and the mortgage crisis.
In a debate in Los Angeles Thursday, Obama invoked the fight against poverty championed by his onetime rival, Senator Edwards. The next day he held an "economic summit" in New Mexico, one of the states with a Democratic caucus Tuesday.
A new Clinton ad in Super Tuesday states shows a parachutist in free fall and the word "recession" as an announcer intones, "With your job and family security in the balance, the stakes have never been higher in choosing our new president."
The candidates' views on economic issues – particularly differences on healthcare – may be pivotal for some voters. But another potent theme will be electability, some analysts say.
With Sen. John McCain now the GOP front-runner after victories in New Hampshire, Florida, and South Carolina, Democratic voters may also try to assess which candidate has the best chance against him in the general election.