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Hillary’s lead dwindles ahead of Super Tuesday

Suzanne Goldenberg and Ewen MacAskill

McCain establishes formidable lead: surveys

— PHOTO: AFP

Will Hillary make it? Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton celebrates the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory on her chartered plane in Minneapolis. The question is: Will she win on Super Tuesday?

Washington: Hillary Clinton tried on Monday to bring Barack Obama’s aspirational candidacy back to earth, repeatedly accusing him of misleading voters in an attempt to halt his poll momentum ahead of the Super Tuesday contest.

With opinion polls showing Mr. Obama making significant gains ahead of the contest in 22 states, Ms. Clinton tried to undermine Mr. Obama’s central appeal of being a politician who operated above the fray.

In an appearance on ABC television, she repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of being “misleading” or making statements that were “untrue” on issues from diplomacy to healthcare. “I really hope Senator Obama will quit deliberately mis-stating what I have said,” she complained.

Mr. Obama, on the morning chat shows, was just as combative. In an interview on ABC, he suggested Ms. Clinton’s history made her a polarising figure and that he was more electable. “I think I can get votes that Senator Clinton can’t get,” he said.

The two contenders for the Democratic nomination are now in a virtual dead-heat for the party nomination. The two are spending $19 million on ads in the final hours of the contest. Mr. Obama is advertising in 21 of the 22 states, while Ms. Clinton is targeting 19, having apparently given up on Alaska, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. Neither is running television ads in Mr. Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Obama criticised

She used the talk shows to claim that Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan represented a surrender to the health industry lobbyists who oppose universal coverage. “It looks like it was written by the health insurance companies,” she said.

She stressed that as a battle-scarred veteran she could better withstand Republican attacks. “General elections are much more contested. The other side has no compunction about raising any issue against anyone they are running against,” she said.

Weekend polls confirmed the trend that Mr. Obama is closing the gap. A Washington Post-ABC news poll on Sunday showed Ms. Clinton on 47 per cent to Mr. Obama’s 43 per cent. MSNBC-McClatchy, polling in key battleground states, also had Mr. Obama gaining on Ms. Clinton. He was ahead in Georgia, which has a large African-American population, by 47 per cent to 41 per cent. The poll even showed him catching up with Ms. Clinton in her own backyard, with a gap of only 7 per cent in New Jersey. In Arizona, which had been thought to be for Ms. Clinton because of its Latino population, she was on 43 per cent and Mr. Obama 41 per cent.

The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press said in its poll that Mr. Obama had made important inroads among white male voters.

In the Republican race, John McCain could barely disguise his confidence that he would emerge as the winner. “I assume that I will get the nomination of the party,” Mr. McCain told reporters.

Mitt Romney managed to chalk up a victory on Saturday in the caucuses in Maine but polls suggest Mr. McCain will be hard to stop on Tuesday.

Pew gave Mr. McCain a formidable lead nationally, with 42 per cent of the vote against 22 per cent for Romney. Mr. McCain now dominates all segments of the Republican electorate. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008

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