- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday replaced her presidential campaign manager just before tomorrow’s Potomac primaries, while rival Sen. Barack Obama completed his sweep of the five weekend nominating contests.

Mrs. Clinton of New York said she is grateful to longtime friend Patti Solis Doyle for getting us “within reach” of the Democratic Party nomination, but confirmed her campaign manager would be stepping aside. It caps a whirlwind week for Mrs. Clinton, who won big victories in several Super Tuesday states but soon announced she had money troubles. She bounced back within days of reports that Mrs. Doyle and others were going without paychecks, raising more than $10 million in a few days from 100,000 donors.

But she lost four contests Saturday to Mr. Obama, who won the Maine caucuses yesterday and has momentum heading into the primaries tomorrow in the District, Virginia and Maryland.

Mrs. Clinton announced that Maggie Williams, longtime confidante and one-time chief of staff to the first lady, would become campaign manager, adding, “I know she will lead our campaign with great skill towards the nomination.”

Though the campaign makeover might send a signal she is struggling, and she canceled an afternoon rally in Roanoke as a result of bad weather, she insisted at a stop in Manassas yesterday, “Our campaign is going stronger and stronger.”

Mrs. Clinton reminded voters yesterday she loaned her campaign $5 million of her own money because “I felt that strongly about it,” and “I know how important it is that this contest continue.”

She also said yesterday that her own cash infusion encouraged many, even a “young mother … who sent what she could” and a “crusty old conservative” to donate in the past few days.

Mrs. Clinton was the strong national front-runner for months, leading in state polls everywhere but Iowa, and many in her campaign expected she would have clinched the nomination by Super Tuesday.

Instead, she stumbled out of the gate with a third-place finish in Iowa.

After Mrs. Clinton lost the Hawkeye State, there were rumors she would shake up her campaign beginning with Mrs. Doyle and potentially pushing out strategist Mark Penn.

But she won in New Hampshire, and the campaign team remained the same, but soon she was distracted as her husband’s aggressive campaign style turned many black voters against her candidacy.

Mrs. Williams, who is black, begins her duties this week.

Mrs. Doyle, who is Hispanic, was widely respected among Hispanic groups and has worked closely with Mrs. Clinton and former President Billl Clinton for decades. She will remain a senior campaign adviser, and told Clinton staffers in a farewell note yesterday she still thinks the former first lady “will make a great president.”

A Democratic strategist not tied to either campaign said yesterday the changes suggest the Obama-Clinton nomination battle will continue. “It’s another signal that the Clintons are playing to win, that they are going to do anything, make any change, try any strategy, to win,” the strategist said.

Mr. Obama of Illinois, meanwhile, nabbed support from Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia yesterday, but still trails Mrs. Clinton as the two slowly build their delegate counts.

The Moran endorsement means Mr. Obama has backing from all of Virginia’s Democratic members of Congress and Gov. Tim Kaine. Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, is staying neutral before tomorrow’s primary.

“Our momentum is strong, but another round of tough contests is about to begin,” Mr. Obama told supporters in a fundraising appeal.

Mrs. Clinton yesterday offered some criticism of Mr. Obama, suggesting subtly she thinks he is all oratory and little substance.

“No matter how big the crowds at the inauguration,” she said, the problems facing the next president are enormous, and “making those decisions will rest on the shoulders of that one person.”

Mr. Obama consistently has drawn bigger crowds, and his Alexandria rally yesterday boasted about 5,000 while she had 2,500 in Manassas.

Last night, Mr. Obama won 15 of Maine’s delegates to the national convention, according to a tally by the Associated Press. Mrs. Clinton won nine.

Before yesterday, Mr. Obama had won 19 of 30 states that voted since the primary season began last month, while Mrs. Clinton has won the other 11.

Based on those 30 contests, Mr. Obama leads Mrs. Clinton in the pledged delegate count 931-882, according to an AP tally.

But if superdelegates are factored into the count, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Obama 1,125-1,087.

Superdelegates are members of Congress and state officials across the country, along with members of the Democratic National Committee. More than half of the 796 superdelegates have endorsed a candidate, but they are not bound to their choice.

A candidate must get 2,025 delegates to capture the nomination.

Though Mr. Obama seems to be sailing into the Potomac primaries with the wind at his back, his campaign was careful to mute expectations about a primary sweep tomorrow.

“We feel pretty good about all three of these contests, but we are also very nervous about this,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, adding that his boss would keep operating like a double-digit underdog because “it’s the only way we know how to act.”

Officials said they expect Mr. Obama to fill Baltimore’s 13,500-seat 1st Mariner Arena when he campaigns there today.

“There is an excitement in the air that I haven’t seen in 25 years in public office,” said Obama supporter Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

He tried to downplay the significance of race in the Maryland primary, though blacks make up about 30 percent of the state’s electorate and most are Democrats. “This is not black or Hispanic or Asian, this is red, white and blue,” he said.

Mr. Kaine and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, both Democrats, gave their best presidential sales pitches on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday.

Mr. Kaine predicted the superdelegates would follow the will of the people: “At the end of the day, I don’t think that it’s going to be the superdelegates brokering the deal.”

The Clinton camp yesterday touted its list of 25 superdelegates from the Potomac region, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Mr. O’Malley, who lauded Mrs. Clinton’s experience on “This Week.”

Mr. Kaine, the first governor to back Mr. Obama one year ago, talked about his candidate’s ability to attract disillusioned Republicans and independents.

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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