- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday she had no concern at all that her ongoing battle with Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination would inflict lasting harm on her party.

Mrs. Clinton of New York predicted Democrats would unite behind our nominee to run a vigorous and successful campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. She further promised she would shout that from the mountaintops after June 3 when the nominee is decided, even if it’s not her.

I have pledged that I will do whatever I can to bring our party back together and to make that case no matter who our nominee is, she told editors during a meeting with the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

She brushed aside polls taken the day she won Pennsylvania’s primary that indicated nearly a quarter of Democrats would defect to the Republican Party should their chosen Democratic candidate not win the nomination.

Mrs. Clinton called that mentality the height of political foolishness to have voted for one of us and what we stand for, and then to stay home or vote for Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican.

I do not believe that this very vigorous contest is at all harmful to the Democratic Party, she said. Instead she said it is energizing since states such as Indiana and North Carolina — which vote May 6 — have a chance to be part of history in picking the nominee.

She also cited the more than 1 million new Democrats who have registered to vote, saying both Barack and I have brought them into the party.

The former first lady was equally optimistic about her own chances for securing the nomination, despite trailing Mr. Obama of Illinois in states won and pledged delegates.

A week is a lifetime in modern presidential politics, she said, insisting Democrats must let the contests finish out. Guam voters have their say Saturday, North Carolina and Indiana vote Tuesday, West Virginia’s primary is May 13, followed by Kentucky and Oregon on May 20. Puerto Rico votes June 1 and Montana and South Dakota are the last in the cycle, on June 3.

Meanwhile, the campaigns sparred yesterday about what to do over high gas prices, with Mr. Obama charging Mrs. Clinton’s proposal to suspend the gas tax for the summer was only motivated by political gain.

He said both candidates want to tax oil company windfall profits, but charged at a town hall meeting in Winston-Salem, N.C., that Senator Clinton wants to spend the money on this Washington gimmick that will save you $28 all summer.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s contests, the Democrats are campaigning in both states, balancing editorial board meetings, local television interviews, tours of local businesses and, in Mr. Obama’s case, even a few pickup basketball games to woo voters. Polls show Mr. Obama with a healthy North Carolina lead, while the candidates are essentially tied here.

Neither candidate can become the nominee without the help of Democratic superdelegates — local and state elected officials and party activists — and each got a boost from new superdelegates yesterday.

Mrs. Clinton earned endorsements from North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley and Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton. Mr. Obama, who is about 20 shy of overtaking Mrs. Clinton’s lead among the superdelegates, picked up one from Iowa and one from Kentucky yesterday.

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