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Candidates scramble in sprawling primary

/ Source: The Associated Press

So many states, so little time.

There are only so many hours in the day and so many miles in even the fastest airplane, so presidential candidates are scrambling to find ways to boost their profile in the many states they'll have to skip or brush lightly before next Tuesday's virtual national primary.

They're taking advantage of the latest in modern technology as well as the tried and true test of celebrity to spread the word in a fluid and competitive campaign that could be reshaped next week. The sheer magnitude of the campaign is driving the effort.

"We have 22 states to cover in eight days and not even superman could cover 22 states in eight days," said Jay Carson, a spokesman for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Tens of millions of people will vote on February 5 and she wants to have spoken directly with as many of those people as possible."

Clinton and Democratic rival Barack Obama were employing some of the same techniques. Clinton spent much of Friday holed up in a hotel room, but she was far from alone. She did an estimated 30 radio and television interviews beamed by satellite into the states holding primaries next Tuesday.

"These are local interviews where you talk to local reporters about what the concerns are in their communities," Carson said. Not to be outdone, Obama set aside an hour for satellite interviews at the same time. Those can be important because the get heavy use in local markets and can be the next best thing to being there.

But that's only the beginning. Clinton was headed to Tucson, Ariz., where she'll participate via satellite in a "Talk Back" sponsored by the youth-oriented MTV television network, The Associated Press and MySpace — an event certain to reach far more people than the town hall meeting she's planning in that city. It also allows her to reach out to young people who traditionally don't vote much, but in as close an election as this every little bit helps.

Obama was also participating in the Talk Back from Minneapolis, Minn., as were Republicans Mike Huckabee from Alabama and Ron Paul.

Town halls, blogs and the Web
On the night before the election, Clinton heads to New York for a "National Town Hall" that will be broadcast for an hour on the Hallmark Channel and streamed live on the Internet for all 90 minutes, giving voters in all 22 states a chance to pose questions to her.

"The stakes in this election are very high and this 21st Century town hall is a chance for voters to make their voices heard," said Clinton. "Our aim is to have the largest and most interactive town hall in political history."

Republican candidates were also using technology to reach out to voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did a conservative blogger conference call Friday with, and other sites as well as satellite TV interviews in six markets.

Besides the new high-tech twists, the rivals were playing a traditional card, trotting out big names and close relatives to make their case. Romney has been making the most of his large family — four of his five sons have been out on the campaign trail in recent days, as well as his wife.

While Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, was visiting Alabama churches Saturday, his wife, Janet, was spending the weekend in Alaska, where GOP caucuses are planned for Tuesday.

Dozens of Republican hopeful John McCain's surrogates will be campaigning with him or on their own. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer will campaign in Tennessee, while former Massachusetts Lt. Gov.Jane Swift will be making appearances in her home state.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will be joining McCain in the Southern states, while former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday — will do the same in New England. Former Govs. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania Paul Cellucci of Massachusetts are also pitching in.

One of the biggest names among the candidate surrogates is Oprah Winfrey, who is headlining a get-out-the-rally for Obama in Los Angeles on Sunday just two hours before the Superbowl kick-off. It will be Winfrey's first campaign appearance for Obama since she held rallies for him in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in December. Obama won in Iowa and South Carolina.

Scheduled to join Winfrey at the rally are Obama's wife, Michelle, and JFK daughter Caroline Kennedy. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, using an airplane leased by the Obama campaign, is campaigning throughout the region, focusing heavily on Hispanic neighborhoods.

Another Obama backer, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, was stumping in California and Washington, while Obama's fellow Illinois senator, Dick Durbin, was also on the campaign trail.

Not to be outdone, Clinton was getting a boost from her husband, who planned a tour of historically black churches in Los Angeles this Sunday. While former President Clinton has had some recent missteps, that hasn't dimmed his popularity in the black community and he was moving to exploit that in south central Los Angeles.

Basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson introduced Hillary Clinton at a rally on Saturday, adding his star power to the campaign.

"Change is about to happen and there's only one candidate in this race who has the solutions," said Johnson.

Clinton has had her share of help from high profile supporters, including California's senior U.S. senator, Diane Feinstein, who has stayed close to the former first lady's as she's campaigned in the state. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who represents a majority black district in Los Angeles, endorsed Clinton recently and appeared at local events with her Saturday.

"I just happen to be an African-American woman and I have endorsed Hillary Clinton," said Waters.

Carson argued that the surrogates and technical twitches are essential.

"This campaign started out as a conversation with the American people," said Carson. "She has tried to do that throughout the campaign and continues to try and take questions at as many events as she can and spend as much time as she can on the rope lines talking to individuals, but there are limits."