Clinton Presses on, Obama Looks Ahead

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Clinton Presses on, Obama Looks Ahead

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hillary Clinton met top donors on Wednesday to plead for money for her uphill White House bid, and front-runner Barack Obama courted blue-collar voters in Michigan with promises of help for the ailing car industry.

After a blowout West Virginia loss on Tuesday raised more questions about his trouble with white working-class voters, Obama visited the general-election battleground of Michigan to tout plans for a $150 billion clean technologies fund to create new jobs and promote fuel-efficient vehicles.

He looked past the race with Clinton to focus on a likely November match-up with Republican John McCain, saying the Arizona senator “is not offering new solutions or economic policies that are different from what George Bush has given us for eight long years.”

Obama retains an almost unassailable advantage in delegates who will select the Democratic nominee at the party convention in August. He gained the support on Wednesday of two more superdelegates, who are free to back any candidate, and the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Clinton returned to Washington for a round of media interviews and meetings with top donors after her 41-point victory over Obama in West Virginia barely made a dent in the Illinois senator’s big lead in the Democratic race.

She promised to push on through the last five contests in the hope her showing will bolster her argument that she is the Democrat with the best chance to beat McCain in November.

“I’m going to keep fighting until every last American has a chance to be heard, and as we learned last night in West Virginia, I know we can win,” the New York senator and former first lady said in an e-mail plea for donations.

Clinton’s campaign is $20 million in debt but her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said she had the resources to compete with Obama and described her donors as “very excited, ready to go and ready to help.”

Clinton added one superdelegate endorsement on Wednesday.

Race a factor

Exit polls showed Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, won support from fewer than one-quarter of white voters without a college degree in West Virginia. That repeats a pattern seen in some other big Obama losses, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The polls also showed two of every 10 white voters said race was a factor in their decision and only a third of those said they would support Obama against McCain. Obama gained about a quarter of the white vote in West Virginia, which has a small black population.

Obama’s visit to Michigan was his first trip there since he signed a pledge last year promising not to campaign in the state because of its dispute with the national party over the timing of its primary.

Clinton won the contest and Obama’s name was not on the ballot. She also won a disputed race in Florida and is pushing for delegates from both states to be seated at the convention. Obama has said he wants the delegates seated fairly.

“We feel very confident about our ability to win Michigan. Now obviously because of the whole hoopla around when Michigan held its primary, my name was not on the ballot and we did not do campaigning here,” Obama said. “That wasn’t my choosing.”

He said he would guarantee the state’s delegation would be seated at the party’s convention in August and they will “have a full voice” there.

The Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee meets on May 31 to consider requests by Michigan and Florida to seat their delegates.

Clinton aides said her big win in West Virginia was a sign of her continued strength in the key battleground states that Democrats need to win in November.

“When you win a 40-point victory in a swing state, that sends a message to many superdelegates that you would be the best nominee,” Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said.

A delegate count by MSNBC gives Obama 1,885 delegates to Clinton’s 1,722. That leaves him 140 short of the 2,025 needed to clinch the nomination.

Neither candidate can win without help from superdelegates — nearly 800 party officials who can back any candidate. Obama has been gaining ground among superdelegates for weeks.

Three former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Bush appointee William Donaldson, endorsed Obama on Wednesday.

Five more contests remain in the Democratic nominating battle, with a combined 189 delegates at stake. Oregon and Kentucky vote on May 20, Puerto Rico votes on June 1 and Montana and South Dakota vote on June 3.

Clinton is favored in Kentucky and Obama has been leading in the polls in Oregon.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Ellen Wulfhorst and Jeff Mason; Editing by Vicki Allen)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters “Tales from the Trail: 2008” online at http:/


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