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McCain Says Huckabee Still Viable; Dems Face Presidential Showdown
Friday, February 8, 2008
Facing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the race for the presidency, Mike Huckabee said he is not harping on delegate counts heading into Saturday’s GOP contests in three states.
“I’m more into miracles than math,” he said Friday. “Miracles, I understand. Math is a little harder. People have said, well, you’ve got to have anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of all the rest of the delegates. That’s assuming no other delegates leave the people they’ve supported so far. … But as we all know, a candidate can say one word, do one thing, have one particular moment that can end his whole career so, you know, I’m not saying I’m just driving behind (McCain) at the NASCAR race waiting for him to lose a tire. But crazier things have happened.”
Washington, Louisiana and Kansas hold GOP contests this weekend, and the former Arkansas governor and John McCain, who said Huckabee still is a viable threat, campaigned in Kansas on Friday.
Among the Republicans, McCain’s campaign officials say they expect to stay on the trail five to six days a week through March and April. Aides say the March 4 primaries would be their earliest chance to lock up the nomination with the needed 1,191 delegates. Mitt Romney’s exit from the race Thursday made McCain the unquestioned leader in the GOP race.
On the Democratic side, the race for the nomination will come down to some unfamiliar battlegrounds, and this weekend Washington state is the first of many unlikely scenes for a presidential showdown after Super Tuesday failed to mint a front-runner in the Democratic field.
Washington offers the most delegates of any of the four states holding Democratic contests this weekend. Washington and Nebraska hold caucuses Saturday, alongside a Louisiana primary, and Maine holds caucuses Sunday. The Virgin Islands also hold caucuses Saturday.
The contests offer 161 delegates total for the Democrats, and 78 of them come from Washington.
For Democrats, every delegate matters. Barack Obama was the only Democratic candidate to campaign in all four states voting this weekend, and both he and Hillary Clinton were barnstorming the Pacific Northwest.
Clinton visited Tacoma Friday, where she spoke to a crowd of about 4,000, mostly about health care.
She also urged shift workers to caucus for her Saturday.
“I need all of you to redouble your efforts to go to the caucuses tomorrow to be there to stand up for what we need in a president,” she said.
Clinton has the backing of Washington’s two female senators - which she touts in an ad running statewide — but Obama won the endorsement Friday of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, whom both candidates had courted.
She stumped for him at a massive 20,000-person rally in Seattle, where Clinton had been the day before.
“It is time for us to have hope, not fear; it is time for us to believe again. It is time for us to unite America. It is time for us to lead the world,” said Gregoire. “And my fellow Washingtonians, there is one person in America that I firmly believe can do all that and that man’s name is Barack Obama.”
After touring a mechanical contracting company Friday morning, Obama said Washington would be “very important,” since the race will be close across the country.
“On Saturday if we come out of here with momentum and additional delegates, that will lay the groundwork for (future primaries),” he said. “Washington has a lot of delegates at stake and will impact how the contest is viewed.”
Though convention delegates are still being tallied, the 22 states that held Democratic contests on Super Tuesday left the Democrats in a dead heat. The latest tallies show Clinton with 1,045 and Obama with 960 - 2,025 are needed to seal the nomination, leaving the candidates in a state-by-state quest for supporters.
In Washington, though the state has a history of electing women to high office, polls favor Obama, and his anti-war stance could play well to the largely anti-war population.
“The key issue in this state is the war,” said Seattle Pacific University’s Reed Davis. “We have a long history in Washington state of anti-war activism, so that’s why Obama is favored to win the caucuses tomorrow.”
He’s also shown an ability to fare well in smaller, caucus states.
Obama said the reason for that is “we have enormous enthusiasm among our supporters. They’re not casual voters … they are more likely to come out to a caucus.”
He said the caucus states have mostly been smaller states where he can meet more voters, allowing him to fight against “that Clinton brand name.”
Despite the dead heat, both candidates have been trying to play the role of underdog.
A Clinton fundraising e-mail asked for help in defeating Obama and “his virtually unlimited funds.”
Both candidates plan to be in Maine Saturday, while Bill Clinton and Obama have already campaigned in Louisiana.
Though in unfamiliar electoral territory, the candidates resorted to well-trodden themes, trading accusations Friday over health care.
Clinton said in Tacoma, “When it comes to universal health care, my opponent is saying, ‘No we can’t.’ Well I say, Yes we can … if we make the right decision in this election.”
“Yes we can” is one of Obama’s campaign mantras. Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in response that the Illinois senator offers universal health care as well, only his plan would do more to cut costs and would not mandate coverage like Clinton’s.