As Super Tuesday draws inexorably nearer, all the signs are that Obama is closing the gap, and both Clinton and Obama are moving the argument on to which of them could actually beat whoever the Republicans put forward for the Presidency.
In an interview on ABC, he (Obama) suggested Clinton's history made her a polarising figure and that he was more electable. "I think I can get votes that Senator Clinton can't get," he said.Meanwhile, Clinton was hitting back:
She stressed that as a battle-scarred veteran she could better withstand Republican attacks. "General elections are much more contested. The other side has no compunction about raising any issue against anyone they are running against," she said.This was something that I thought Bill Clinton was hinting at before South Carolina , the notion that Obama is simply too nice to face down the Republican attack dog machine.
It's certainly an effective charge, the danger that - by electing Obama - the Democrats are once again electing a nice guy who will ultimately lose. However, Obama is countering this well with his argument that Hillary is someone who produces a very strong reaction in people and carries a lot of baggage. That's true as, even here in Britain, I have seen people react with instant revulsion when her name is mentioned. And this was amongst people with only a peripheral interest in politics.
What's undeniable is that Obama is giving Clinton a run for her money and, as Super Tuesday approaches, he's narrowing her lead in the polls to the point where her victory is not guaranteed.
It now looks as if the Republican field, which has been impossible to read for so many weeks, has cleared to show McCain as the clear favourite - much to the chagrin of many on the right of the Republican movement - and the question for many Democrats is whether Hillary or Barack is the best candidate to take him on.
Weekend polls confirmed the trend that Obama is closing the gap. A Washington Post-ABC news poll yesterday showed Clinton on 47% to Obama's 43%.
MSNBC-McClatchy, polling in key battleground states, also had Obama gaining on Clinton. He was ahead in Georgia, which has a large African-American population, by 47% to 41%. The poll even showed him catching up with Clinton in her own backyard, with a gap of only 7% in New Jersey. In Arizona, which had been thought to be for Clinton because of its large Latino population, she was on 43% and Obama on 41%.
The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press said in its poll that Obama had made important inroads among white male voters, especially middle-aged and middle-income voters who had previously been solidly behind Clinton. It said he had picked up a significant share of John Edwards's support following his exit from the race last week. The poll put Clinton on 46% of the vote nationally, against 38%.
A question that appears to be splitting families:
As Super Tuesday approaches, Hillary's stroll to the Democratic nomination is far from guaranteed.
Loretta and Linda Sanchez, the only sisters in the House of Representatives, have endorsed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, respectively. And Penny Pritzker, a Chicago philanthropist, serves as Mr. Obama’s national finance chairman even as her brother, Jay Robert, holds fund-raisers across town for Mrs. Clinton.
“Within the family, for the first time you have different opinions,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California and Ms. Shriver’s husband, told The San Francisco Chronicle last week, around the same time Mr. Obama was calling his wife and coaxing her to his side. Three of Robert F. Kennedy’s children have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, while their mother, Ethel Kennedy, supports Mr. Obama, along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and Representative Patrick J. Kennedy. “I’ve been in the family 30 years, and I’ve never seen that,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, who has endorsed Senator John McCain.
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