- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign yesterday pointed to her rival’s flattening poll numbers as evidence she has new momentum while she lobbied for a do-over primary in Michigan.

Mrs. Clinton urged Sen. Barack Obama to support a new vote while her chief strategist listed several polls in which his national lead has declined. She also leads in polls taken in Pennsylvania, the next battleground for the Democratic nomination.

Gallup and Zogby national tracking polls show Mr. Obama’s lead among Democratic voters “has been evaporating,” Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn told reporters.

The New York senator took a 49 percent to 42 percent lead over Mr. Obama of Illinois in the Gallup tracking poll for the first time in six weeks. It was conducted Sunday to Tuesday, days when Mr. Obama was hammered on radio and television for controversial statements made by his pastor.

The numbers suggest a “very strong swing of momentum” to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Penn said, adding that as Mr. Obama is “vetted” by the press, it is “becoming harder to find” polls that show he would beat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

“She is gradually emerging as a stronger candidate,” he said. “Perhaps a significant case of buyers remorse is setting in.”

Mrs. Clinton yesterday cheered the 600,000 who had turned out for Michigan’s nonbinding primary on Jan. 15 and noted the nearly 2 million who voted in Florida’s primary. Like Michigan, the state of Florida violated party rules by holding its contest too early.

“You made it abundantly clear that you wanted your voices to be heard and your votes to be counted,” Mrs. Clinton said during a surprise trip to Detroit.

She won the contests in Florida and Michigan, though Mr. Obama was not on the Michigan ballot and neither campaigned in those states. Mrs. Clinton said she worries voters there are “in danger of being shut out of our democratic process.”

“I think that is wrong, and frankly, it is un-American,” she said. “This goes way beyond this election, and it goes way beyond who is running. I will always defend your right to vote, no matter whom you choose to vote for in the end.”

Michigan’s party and elected leaders are considering a June 3 revote because the Jan. 15 contest violated national party rules and will not count when it comes to seating delegates at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

Obama campaign lawyer Robert F. Bauer wrote in a memo he has concerns about the fairness and legality of a new Michigan contest.

It could “effectively deny Michigan voters, a second consecutive time, meaningful participation in the nominating process,” he wrote, also raising questions about whether Republicans who opted to participate in their party’s January contest would be violating state law if they wanted to vote in the Democratic primary.

“In any challenge, Michigan will be criticized for proposing a rerun without, in effect, restoring to voters the original choice they had — whether to participate in a meaningful Democratic primary,” he wrote.

The Clinton campaign fired off its own memo rebutting Mr. Bauer’s arguments and noted that Mr. Obama last night told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he would be “happy” to abide by what the Democratic National Committee approves as a framework for seating Florida and Michigan’s delegations at the convention.

The Clinton memo called each of the Bauer concerns “false” excuses, accusing the Obama campaign of organizing efforts to have Michigan Democrats choose “uncommitted” instead of Mrs. Clinton, who was the only major candidate on the ballot.

It also noted “nearly twice as many people voted in Michigan and Florida than voted in the four early states combined,” referring to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Prominent Clinton supporters penned a letter to Michigan officials guaranteeing they would collectively raise and contribute up to $12 million for a new primary, a letter that Obama spokesman Bill Burton dubbed “evidence that Clinton is willing to do absolutely anything to get elected.”

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