- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2008

WAKE FOREST, N.C. — Sen. Barack Obama took a razor-thin victory in the Guam caucus yesterday, edging him closer to the Democratic presidential nomination as the two candidates made their closing arguments to Indiana and North Carolina voters before Tuesday’s primaries.

Mr. Obama cast himself yesterday as “something entirely different” and depicted his race with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a choice between himself and “the same kind of politics we’ve come to know in Washington.”

He also dismissed his own troubles with symbolic issues in recent weeks, called on people to vote for him as a repudiation of those issues, and slipped in a backhanded reminder of when Mrs. Clinton told a false tale about her trip to the Balkans as first lady and landing in Bosnia under sniper fire.

The Illinois senator said while campaigning in Indianapolis that “the only way a black guy named Barack Obama … can win this race — [is] if you decide that you’ve had enough of the way things are; if you decide that this election is bigger than flag pins and sniper fire and the comments of a former pastor — bigger than the differences between what we look like or where we come from or what party we belong to.”

Mrs. Clinton, campaigning here, sharpened her focus on Mr. Obama yesterday, and she and former President Bill Clinton planned multiple campaign appearances across North Carolina.

“You have to ask yourself who will really stand up for you and who can you count on,” Mrs. Clinton told a few hundred voters in this college town, beaming when most in the crowd said they already had cast ballots for her through the early-vote program.

Mrs. Clinton holds a solid lead in Indiana, and has set her sights on getting the North Carolina race as close as possible. Mr. Obama leads there, but keeping the margin thin would allow her to continue arguing to superdelegates that she is more deserving of the party nod.

Both states are critical with just one month left of Democratic contests.

As expected, Mr. Obama won the caucus in Guam, but by a mere seven votes. Final returns early this morning from the small Pacific island showed 2,264 votes for him to Mrs. Clinton’s 2,257.

The contest sparked wide interest, including campaign ads and a radio appearance by Mr. Clinton, even though Guam only gets four pledged-delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention — eight delegates, each of whom can cast a half-vote. Mr. Obama remains fewer than 280 delegates from securing the nomination.

After Tuesday, West Virginia votes May 13, Kentucky and Oregon vote May 20, Puerto Rico votes June 1 and Montana and South Dakota close out the nominating season June 3. Mrs. Clinton leads in three of those contests, but the math makes it practically speaking impossible for her win enough delegates to clinch the nomination on pledged delegates.

Her only chance is to persuade enough superdelegates — elected officials and party activists — to swing her way despite Mr. Obama’s lead among pledged delegates, a prospect that could further divide the Democratic Party.

Mrs. Clinton, who trails in states won and delegate count, told moderators at a MomLogic.com forum in Cary, N.C., yesterday she would keep fighting for the nomination. But when they asked whether she would go “all the way to the convention,” Mrs. Clinton changed her tone from earlier this spring when she vowed to battle until August.

“Well, I plan on going all the way through the next contests, West Virginia, Kentucky and others,” she said.

Voters here and in Indiana are increasingly saying they would not back the other Democrat should their preferred candidate lose the nomination. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama reject that notion and say they will do everything they can to help the party unite against presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

“No matter how passionately either my supporters or Senator Obama’s supporters feel about us, they have much more in common in terms of what we want in our country than we do with Senator McCain and Republicans,” she told MomLogic moderators.

That didn’t convince high school music teacher Tony Robinson, who says Mr. Obama lacks experience.

“I will be so disappointed if she does not get it,” he said. “I’ll definitely vote for McCain.”

Steelworker Patrick Taylor of Louisburg also supports Mrs. Clinton and said he thinks she can handle Republican attacks but he worries, “I don’t think all of Obama’s skeletons have been shaken out of the closet yet.”

Mr. Obama, who often says having Mrs. Clinton as an opponent has “tested” him thoroughly, said the election is “bigger” than the Democrats running or Mr. McCain.

“It’s about whether this country, at this moment, will continue to stand by while the wealthy few prosper at the expense of the hardworking many, or whether we’ll stand up and reclaim the American dream for every American,” he said.

He also revealed a new 2-minute ad that portrays him as a candidate “who shares” the values of Indiana and North Carolina voters.

“Politics didn’t lead me to working people. Working people led me to politics,” Mr. Obama says in the ad.

He closes by saying Tuesday is “so important” for voters to make a choice: “We can go about doing the same old things with the same old folks and somehow hope we’re going to get a different result. Or we can go ahead and try something entirely different.”

While the Democrats continued fighting over the gas-tax holiday proposed by Mrs. Clinton, he was endorsed by an environmental group and she reminded voters he supported the Bush energy bill in 2005.

“There’s a difference between making a speech about how you’re against the special interests and actually standing up and voting against the special interests,” said Mrs. Clinton, who voted against the energy bill.

Both candidates spent yesterday with a family focus — talking about their children and values.

Mrs. Clinton shared personal stories with the MomLogic group about daughter Chelsea — who campaigned for her mom at the Kentucky Derby yesterday — and her views on parenting.

“My daughter’s eye-rolling was a regular part of my life,” she joked.

But the women in the audience nodded approvingly when she said good parenting is about making sure you “be present with your children.”

“To be there when you’re there with them,” she said. “It’s so easy to be looking at your Blackberry … to be distracted. Somehow you have to create the space and time so your children really, really know they have your undivided attention.”

Obama daughters Sasha and Malia joined their parents on the campaign trail for the first time since the senator won the Iowa caucus, enjoying a picnic and ice cream social in Indiana.

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