- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama yesterday attacked Sen. John McCain as wanting to extend the “costly” Iraq war while new national polls show the Republican pulling ahead of the feuding Democrats.

Mr. Obama of Illinois and his rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, are waging nasty battles in advance of the next contests in the nomination battle and giving Mr. McCain time to shore up his support.

Campaigning yesterday in West Virginia, Mr. Obama linked Mr. McCain to President Bush, charging he would continue the multibillion-dollar Iraq war, which he said could end up with a $3 trillion price tag that would be better spent on domestic priorities.

“John McCain refuses to learn from the failures of the Bush years,” Mr. Obama said. “Instead of offering an exit strategy for Iraq, he’s offering us a 100-year occupation. Instead of offering an economic plan that works for working Americans, he’s supporting tax cuts. … [He is] embracing the failed policies of the past, but America is ready to embrace the future.”

But the latest Gallup tracking poll showed good news for Mr. McCain, who has clinched the Republican nomination. The Arizona senator has erased Mr. Obama’s once double-digit lead in hypothetical matchups and now leads the Democrat 47 to 43. He also leads Mrs. Clinton of New York 48 to 45. The Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll for yesterday had Mr. McCain ahead by even wider margins 49-42 over Mr. Obama and 51-41 over Mrs. Clinton.

Clinton staffers yesterday sent reporters a new SurveyUSA poll of Massachusetts voters that showed Mrs. Clinton would beat Mr. McCain by 13 points while an Obama-McCain matchup results in a 47-47 tie.

Mr. McCain is making a fundraising push, telling his supporters in an e-mail this week, “The differences between our campaign and the Democrats could not be greater.”

“It is no secret that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have raised enormous, historic sums of money in their battle for the nomination,” he said. “National liberal Democratic groups like MoveOn.org, the Democratic National Committee, and others are plotting to spend and do whatever it takes to bring my campaign down.”

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, has doubled her already solid lead over Mr. Obama in Pennsylvania. She leads him 51-35 in the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

The poll showed Mrs. Clinton ahead in virtually every demographic group. Mr. Obama still has the advantage among blacks and voters in Philadelphia, but he is behind with young adults — a group he won by large margins in many early primary states. Male voters are evenly split.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod dismissed the polls as the normal “ebbs and flows” of campaigning.

“Senator Obama has enormous faith in the American people, not only to sort out this issue but to sort out who [will] … bring the country together around solutions,” he said.

Mr. Axelrod also reminded reporters the math “is pretty clear to everyone” because Mr. Obama holds a lead among delegates won in primaries and caucuses.

“I think we’re getting close to the end here,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton touted her economic plan while campaigning yesterday in Indiana with supporter Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat. She urged Congress to pass a second stimulus package to ease the mortgage crisis.

She said the Fed’s most recent rate cut is “not enough,” and urged Congress to address “the underlying cause of the crisis.”

A bedrock of Mr. Obama’s campaign is his early opposition to the Iraq war — a conflict he spoke out against in October 2002, when Mrs. Clinton was voting to authorize it. He told West Virginia voters the war is costing more than the lives of young troops killed in action, asking: “When are we going to stop mortgaging our children’s future for Washington’s mistake?”

Mr. Obama, noting the first fatality from the war was from West Virginia, told voters that war supporters promised it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion and would be financed in part by Iraqi oil.

Now, “the most conservative estimates” have set the price tag at more than half a trillion dollars and that could rise to $3 trillion by the time it ends, Mr. Obama said.

“Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war,” he said, listing domestic projects such as universal health care, relief for struggling homeowners and improving the nation’s bridges and roads.

Mrs. Clinton is taking today through Sunday off for Easter. Mr. Obama campaigns in Oregon today and tomorrow but will rest on Easter.

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