Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Obama raises $32 milion in a month, closes the gap on Hillary"

Times Online (UK):
Barack Obama raised a stunning $32 million in January, his campaign announced today, as a new national poll showed him pulling within six points of Hillary Clinton.
Mr Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that the Illinois senator also added 170,000 new donors, with the strongest money-raising period the day after he lost the New Hampshire primary to Mrs Clinton.

Referring to next Tuesday's 22-state contest, Mr Plouffe said: “Obviously these resources are critical...we’ve been able to advertise in just about every February 5 state in pretty high levels."

The Clinton campaign has not yet released its funding results for the month.

With the Democratic nomination expected to drag on after Super Tuesday, when voters in 22 states go to the polls next wek, Mr Plouffe said the Obama campaign will tomorrow start advertising in states that vote after February 5, including Louisiana, Maine and Virginia.

As recently as ten days ago, Mrs Clinton led Mr Obama by 20 points in Gallup's national survey, but the Illinois senator has dramatically cut the gap. His surge follows the endorsement on Monday of Senator Edward Kennedy, the late John F Kennedy's brother, and after a backlash among many senior Democrats over aggressive tactics used by Bill Clinton during the South Carolina primary.

National polls usually have little bearing on contests in individual, early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. But the new survey is an important indicator of the political environment ahead of Super Tuesday.

After accusations that the Clintons used racial tactics in South Carolina to scare white voters away from Mr Obama, Mr Clinton appears to have been reigned in by his wife. In appearances on her behalf in the past 48 hours, he has barely mentioned Mr Obama, instead remaining positive and focusing on his wife's policies.

Mrs Clinton last night apologised for any offence her husband had caused in South Carolina, telling ABC News: “I think whatever he said which was certainly never intended to cause any kind of offence to anyone. If it did give offences then I take responsibility and I'm sorry about that.”

Asked if she could control her husband, she said: “Oh, of course.” In a separate interview she did not deny that she had asked the former president to tone down his campaign rhetoric, and insisted that this was very much her presidential campaign.

Mr Obama, in contrast, has stepped up his criticism of Mrs Clinton, who is now trying to take the moral high ground in their nomination battle at a time when both are desperate to woo supporters of John Edwards, who dropped out of the race yesterday.

In a speech in Denver yesterday, before a huge crowd of more than 10,000, Mr Obama said a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a step back to the past, turning her husband's campaign theme from his 1996 election - building a bridge to the 21st century - against her. “I know it is tempting, after another presidency by a man named George Bush, to simply turn back the clock, and to build a bridge back to the 20th century," Mr Obama said.

Turning to Mrs Clinton's accusation that she is ready to lead America on Day One, and that he is not, Mr Obama said: “It's not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One; you have to be right from Day One." It was a reference to his pre-invasion opposition to the Iraq war, and Mrs Clinton's vote authorising the war.

Mrs Clinton, who is now focusing her message on the economy, jobs and health care - the bread-and-butter issues of most concern to Mr Edwards's supporters - responded. “That certainly sounds audacious, but not hopeful,” she said, a play on the title of Mr Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. She added: “It's not hopeful and it's not what we should be talking about in this campaign. I would certainly ... hope we could get back to talking about the issues, drawing the contrasts that are based in fact that have a connection to the American people.”

Mrs Clinton holds several advantages heading into Super Tuesday. She has significant leads in the biggest, delegate-rich states of New York, California, New Jersey and Missouri. Yet because of the way Democrats award delegates - through proportional representation - it is mathematically impossible for either candidate to emerge victorious after February 5.

Mr Obama is hoping to do well in his home state of Illinois and in smaller states such as Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, Colorado and North Dakota. He is also trying to limit his opponent's advantage in New York and California.

In his speech, he depicted Mrs Clinton as a calculating, poll-tested, divisive figure who will only inspire greater partisan divisions in America.

Mrs Clinton vowed to take the high road. “I'm going to continue to talk to people about what we need to do in our country to try to lift people up, to keep focused on the future, to be very specific about what I want to do as president, because I want to be held accountable,” she said.

With Mr Edwards out, the debate in Los Angeles tonight will be Mrs Clinton's and Mr Obama's first head-to-head encounter, and their last joint encounter before Super Tuesday. It also demonstrates that, for the first time, the Democratic Party will not be picking a white male as its presidential nominee.



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