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Republicans who want a change go for Obama

EDGEVILLE, S.C. — Twenty years ago, Patricia Moseley and her college friends campaigned throughout this region for George H.W. Bush, with his son by her side.

She says she still loves the Bush family, but because she "is just ready for a change," she spent yesterday knocking on doors in this mostly Republican county to boost a presidential candidate of different stripes — Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

In his victory speech last night, Mr. Obama said Ms. Moseley is just the type of voter he needs to reach in order to capture enough delegates to beat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for their party's nomination.

"When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who is now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out into the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign," he said. "Don't tell me we can't change."

Mrs. Clinton has her own microtargeting, and the campaign already has dispatched the candidate and former President Bill Clinton to key states that vote Feb. 5, including Tennessee and Missouri. To reach Hispanic voters, the Clinton team is hosting bilingual phone banks, and she is raking in endorsements from Hispanic leaders who remind voters of her work with the Children's Defense Fund decades ago.

Mrs. Clinton holds a big lead in California, the largest prize of the 22 states that vote in nine days, with 441 delegates at stake. The Golden State offers a microcosm of the country — conservative and liberal cities, rural pockets, an active Hispanic electorate and thousands of highly educated Democrats.

Voters throughout the South — Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee — also will be heading to the polls on Feb. 5, opening a window for Mr. Obama to continue winning Southern states.

Polls show Mr. Obama holds a slim lead over Mrs. Clinton in Georgia, but she leads him in Alabama, where he will campaign today.

Mr. Obama may score big with Republican and independent voters in states such as California and Missouri, which allow voters from any party to choose a candidate on the Democratic ballot.

He also is continuing to target young college Democrats.

Two decades ago, Ms. Moseley was the starry-eyed political junkie burning shoe leather for Republicans in South Carolina. Yesterday, she led five high school students who have been working for months to elect Mr. Obama.

"I was just like these kids today, ready for a change," said Ms. Moseley, 42. "The methods of old have played out. When Senator Obama is talking about marching into the future, he's talking about this generation."

Black, white and Hispanic, the teenage friends fanned out in this Republican stronghold to spread the Obama message.

"We're the center of the political world right now," a grinning Ktyall Malik told a voter on her front porch yesterday, as his friend Jennifer Haas chimed in: "So it's going to count."

"Every vote counts," added Ktyall, who like most of his friends, attends Strom Thurmond High School.

After watching clips of Mr. Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, "I fell in love," said Ktyall, who created Strom Thurmond High's Aspiring Political Leaders of America club.

"It attracted me that he was black, too, and that we had so many diverse candidates. I knew this election was going to be monumental, and I had to get involved," he said.

Ktyall, whose friends like to call him Obama Junior, will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall.

His friends insist the South has changed since their high school namesake, a long-serving South Carolina senator, ran for president on a segregationist platform in 1948.

"It was a different time, and I wasn't even alive for most of it," said Graham Holson, a senior. His parents are both Republican, but he supports Mr. Obama because he is "hungry for change." He said the Clinton administration did good things that the Bush administration trampled, but he wants something different. "Why would I want eight more years of repeating the same stuff?"

Similar arguments are being made at kitchen tables in the nearly two-dozen states that will vote on Super Tuesday.

The campaigns are preparing for a real battle, looking at the map as a game of political chess where both little wins and big wins count.

The Super Tuesday states differ in how they apportion delegates, and seven of them hold caucuses instead of primaries.

Some states such as California award delegates based on congressional district, so a win in a town such as Lodi would be calculated differently from one in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Joe Trippi, an adviser to John Edwards, predicted Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma are "definitely a target" for the former North Carolina senator to win, and said the campaign is strong in Idaho, Arizona and "pieces of California."

Mrs. Clinton holds leads in Western states such as New Mexico and Arizona. She won Hispanic voters by a large margin in the Nevada caucuses and is putting an emphasis on reaching out to that community.

Voters who prefer the former first lady often give a "two-for-one" explanation, one reason Mrs. Clinton will continue using her husband in the campaign.

"She was a real asset to his presidency, and he'll be one to her, as well," said Cheryl Sloan of Mount Pleasant, S.C. "They both know how to get things done."

Others in South Carolina prefer a candidate who appeals to both parties.

Ms. Moseley, a school administrator and former teacher, said Republicans should like Mr. Obama because he shares their values: "We believe in going to church, and we believe in telling the truth."

Despite losing here yesterday, Mrs. Clinton is expected to win Florida on Tuesday by a large margin. The state's delegates do not count toward the nomination because officials there broke national party rules by holding an early primary. Mrs. Clinton has asked that the Florida delegates, and those from Michigan, which also broke the rules, be seated at the convention.

"This remains a delegate fight," said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson before results came in yesterday, "and we are ahead in that fight."

About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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