Thursday, May 8, 2008

Support for Clinton Wanes as Obama Sees Finish Line

By: PATRICK HEALY and JEFF ZELENY
The New York Times


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton struck a publicly defiant posture on Wednesday about continuing her presidential bid despite waning support from Democratic officials and donors. Some of her advisers acknowledged privately that they remained unsure about the future of her candidacy.

With the political world trained on Mrs. Clinton's financial and electoral viability, Senator Barack Obama moved closer to becoming the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party. Mr. Obama spent the day at home in Chicago, after increasing his delegate lead in Tuesday's primaries - a result that led David Plouffe, a top Obama aide, to say on Wednesday, "We can see the finish line here."

After a decisive loss in North Carolina and a disappointingly narrow victory in Indiana on Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton told advisers that she wanted to start campaigning for next Tuesday's primary in West Virginia, advisers said. At 3 a.m. Wednesday, aides added a noon event there. She was also eager to get away from Beltway buzzards circling her candidacy and feeding off fresh tidbits like the revelation that she had lent her campaign $6 million to keep it afloat, aides said.

In West Virginia on Wednesday afternoon, Mrs. Clinton said that it was "still early" - even though 50 of 56 nominating contests have concluded - and that the "dynamic electoral environment" could still swing the nomination her way.

"I'm staying in this race until there is a nominee, and obviously I'm going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee," Mrs. Clinton said after an event in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
By Peter Nicholas
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


CHICAGO -- Barack Obama hasn't managed after months of political combat to force Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the presidential race, so he's about to try another approach: ignoring her.

Confident that he has built a near-impregnable lead, his campaign aides said Wednesday that Obama would begin shifting his focus toward the general election.

Obama still plans to campaign in states that remain on the primary calendar -- he is to appear in Oregon over the weekend -- but he may also start showing up in states that are considered important in the November contest: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. (All three have held their Democratic primaries.)

With Clinton's hopes of capturing the Democratic nomination dimming, Obama needs to prepare for the prospect of a general election matchup with the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, aides said.

"Everyone is eager to get on with this," said David Axelrod, the Obama campaign's lead strategist.

"We've got to multi-task here . . . Sen. McCain has basically run free for some time now," Axelrod added.

Clinton's campaign cast Obama's strategy as a show of hubris. Clinton has given no signal she is dropping out of the race after Tuesday's split results, when she lost decisively in North Carolina and won narrowly in Indiana.

Showing she still believes she can win, the New York senator hastily arranged a campaign stop Wednesday in West Virginia, which will hold its primary Tuesday. "We've seen the perils of saying 'mission accomplished' too early," said Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman.

The phrase "mission accomplished" was famously displayed on an aircraft carrier in 2003, when President Bush came aboard and declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

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