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Clinton eyes W. Va.; Obama is shifting focus

Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were preparing for Tuesday's primary in West Virginia, a contest that Clinton is heavily favored to win but which likely won't dent Obama's almost insurmountable lead in the delegate count.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were preparing for Tuesday's primary in West Virginia, a contest that Clinton is heavily favored to win but which likely won't dent Obama's almost insurmountable lead in the delegate count.

Obama, inching closer each day to claiming enough delegates to secure the nomination, scheduled a campaign appearance Monday in Charleston, W.Va.; he's also slated to visit Kentucky, which holds its primary on May 20.

Clinton, who is struggling to keep her financially strapped campaign afloat, spent Sunday campaigning in West Virginia.

She made a brief afternoon visit to the home of Anna Jarvis, who is credited with founding Mother's Day 100 years ago. Clinton, who is hoping to become the country's first woman president, afterward told stories about women who have changed history by pressing for equal rights and breaking into male-dominated careers.

She highlighted her own mother's working-class upbringing and quoted from letters she said mothers have written her recently.

Clinton said her favorite letter ended, "It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is."

At an evening campaign stop in Eleanor, W.Va., Clinton quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she's in hot water."

Support among women
Clinton's visit highlighted her support among women, white working-class voters and older voters. Those demographics make West Virginia and Kentucky friendly territory where polls show her leading Obama by as much as 40 percentage points.

Her chief strategist, Howard Wolfson, said West Virginia is a key swing state that Republicans won in 2000 and 2004, and that the former first lady will put back in the Democratic column. He challenged Obama to beat her there if the senator from Illinois wants her out of the race.

"Why can't Senator Obama beat Senator Clinton in West Virginia? Voters there have heard that he's the presumptive nominee," Wolfson said on "Fox News Sunday."

But even an overwhelming win by Clinton in West Virginia, which only has 28 delegates, would not have much of an impact in Obama's overall delegate lead.

Obama has 1,864 delegates and Clinton has 1,702.5, according to the latest NBC News delegate count; 2,025 are needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

According to NBC, Obama also is close to overtaking Clinton in the all-important count of superdelegates — the nearly 800 party and elected officials who are free to support whomever they choose, regardless of the primary results. AP reported that Obama has overtaken Clinton by its count.

Since neither Obama nor Clinton is expected to win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to clinch the nomination at the Democratic Party national convention in August, the superdelegates will most likely decide the race.

The New York senator started the year with a lead of 169-63 among superdelegates, but was surpassed by Obama, who now has backing from 276 superdelegates compared with Clinton's 274.5, according to the latest tally by The Associated Press.

Obama shifts focus
Obama, who was at home Sunday taking a day off from the campaign, has been shifting his campaign focus from the drawn-out nominating battle with Clinton to the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.

Obama's chief strategist said in a television interview Sunday that his campaign is considering a suggestion from McCain's campaign for the two presidential hopefuls to participate in joint town meetings and debates around America starting this summer.

Asked on "Fox News Sunday" about the suggestion and how seriously it was being considered, David Axelrod said: "Very seriously. ... We believe that is the most significant election we've faced in a long time."

"We're at war. Our economy is in turmoil. And we've got so many challenges that the people of this country deserve a serious discourse, and it shouldn't be limited necessarily to three kind of very regimented debates in the fall," he added, referring to those sanctioned by a presidential commission.

Axelrod declined to discuss details. So did aides to McCain, saying they would rather wait until they have an official opponent.

In a sign of his new focus on McCain, Obama is beginning to campaign in states without upcoming primaries. He said he would soon visit Michigan and Florida, two battleground states whose Democratic primaries were essentially nullified by party disputes, and Tuesday he is slated to visit Missouri for a campaign event focusing on economic issues.

McCain, meanwhile, reached out to independents and green-minded social conservatives, arguing that global warming is undeniable and the U.S. must take steps to bring it under control.

In remarks prepared for delivery Monday in Portland, Ore., the presidential contender says expanded nuclear power must be considered to reduce carbon-fuel emissions. He also sets a goal that by 2050, the country will reduce carbon emissions to a level 60 percent below that emitted in 1990.