IMAGE: HILLARY CLINTON
Elise Amendola  /  AP
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo., on Sunday.
updated 2/3/2008 7:02:05 PM ET 2008-02-04T00:02:05

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband visited predominantly black churches Sunday, hoping to ease resentment among a core constituency group that felt her campaign disparaged the achievements of presidential rival Barack Obama.

Obama, meanwhile, sent Oprah Winfrey to California to campaign for him as polls indicated he has narrowed Clinton's lead among Democrats nationwide as well as in that state. The Illinois senator said Clinton is a polarizing figure, which makes him the better nominee in the fall.

Obama's campaign said he would air a TV ad during the Super Bowl, an expensive time slot, in two dozen states with primaries this month.

In the Republican race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney again said Sen. John McCain of Arizona is outside the GOP mainstream. But McCain, enjoying polls showing him with a substantial lead, said he is the more conservative candidate.

Two days before the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 24 states, Hillary Clinton spoke at the Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. "It was a great moment for the Democratic Party" and America to see a woman and a black as the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination, she said of their first one-on-one debate last week in Los Angeles.

Careful not to criticize Obama, Clinton urged the churchgoers to consider her background in Arkansas, in the White House as first lady and in the Senate. "I've done this work for 35 years," said Clinton, joined by daughter Chelsea.

In Los Angeles, former President Clinton was visiting four churches in mostly black neighborhoods. The trip was widely seen as a bid to smooth over perceptions that he had injected race into last month's Democratic primary in South Carolina, which Obama won handily.

The former president never mentioned Obama by name when he spoke for about 20 minutes at the City of Refuge church in Gardena. But he struck a conciliatory tone in describing this year's Democratic contest as "an embarrassment of riches."

"I'm not against anybody," Clinton said.

Obama, speaking on CBS's "Face The Nation" before campaigning in Wilmington, Del., said Republicans and independents would be more inclined to support him than Clinton in a general election.

The problem is "not all of Senator Clinton's making," he said, "but I don't think there's any doubt that the Republicans consider her a polarizing figure."

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Health care differences
Also Sunday, Clinton said she might be willing to have workers' wages garnished if they refuse to buy health insurance.

The New York senator has criticized Obama for pushing a health plan that she says would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified how she would enforce 100 percent enrollment. But when pressed during a television interview, she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."

Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. Under her plan, she said, health care "will be affordable for everyone" because she would limit premium payments "to a low percent of your income."

Obama has said he would require parents to buy health insurance for children, and possibly fine them if they refused, but he would not insist that all adults buy insurance.

Super Bowl Sunday featured presidential campaigning from coast to coast. McCain was stumping in Connecticut, and Romney scheduled stops in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was concentrating on the South, with appearances in Georgia and Tennessee.

Republicans spar over economy
McCain told "Fox News Sunday" he would veto any tax increase passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress. McCain, who opposed President Bush's first two tax cuts, now says Congress should make the reductions permanent, and that there also should be further tax reductions for business investments.

Romney told ABC's "This Week" that McCain "doesn't understand the economy" and that his advocacy of a higher gasoline tax to combat global warming would hurt U.S. consumers.

Romney added, "If we want a party that is indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton on an issue like illegal immigration, we're going to have John McCain as a nominee. That's the wrong way to go."

Romney said he will continue pouring his own money into his campaign, contending that McCain is much better known to most voters.

McCain, who also appeared on "Face the Nation," said he is "far more conservative" than Romney.

McCain later told reporters that despite polls showing him with a 20-point lead over Romney, "I'm incredibly nervous, and I've seen that movie before." Knocking twice on a wooden table in his campaign bus, he said, "a lot of this business is expectation levels, so it's our job to keep our own expectation levels down."

Huckabee said it was time for Romney, who lost major contests in South Carolina and Florida to McCain, to drop out of the race.

"I think it's time for Mitt Romney to step aside," the former governor, who has won only the Iowa caucuses, said on CNN. "If he wants to call it a two-man race, fine. But that makes it John McCain and me."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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