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Candidates, backers tackle Super Tuesday states

Mon., Feb. 4, 2008, midnight

WILMINGTON, Del. – A flurry of campaigning that included celebrity endorsements, pointed criticisms and even Super Bowl ads played out Sunday in advance of what will be the single biggest day of voting in presidential primary history.

With time running out before Super Tuesday, the campaign even stopped in this tiny state, a reflection of the intense competition for delegates that many now expect will continue – at least for the Democrats – for weeks, if not months.

Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, sought votes in Connecticut and Massachusetts as he tried to bolster his conservative credentials.

“If you examine my record, it’s more conservative,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” as he discussed how he matched up with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who visited in Illinois on Sunday.

A hoarse-voiced Sen. Hillary Clinton focused her efforts on Missouri and Minnesota, where Sen. Barack Obama had stumped the day before. Those states are among the more than 20 that will weigh in Tuesday in the Republican and Democratic nomination contests.

Obama, whose campaign ran ads during the Super Bowl in more than 20 states, waged a two-front battle against Clinton and McCain.

“If John McCain is the nominee, then the Democratic Party has to ask itself: Do you want a candidate who has similar policies to John McCain on the war in Iraq, or somebody who can offer a stark contrast?” Obama asked during a stop here, a shot at Clinton’s initial support of an Iraq invasion. As Obama spoke to what his campaign said were 20,000 people crowded in and around a town square, including some standing on the roofs of portable toilets to get a better view, he criticized McCain for supporting a tax cut at a time of war. “The wheels have fallen off the Straight Talk Express,” he said, referring to McCain’s legendary campaign bus.

Oprah Winfrey campaigned for Obama in California, the biggest prize Tuesday, and he received the endorsement of the state’s first lady, Maria Shriver.

Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, is married to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is backing McCain. Obama also received an endorsement from author and radio show host Garrison Keillor.

A new Field Poll in California showed the Democratic race tightening there, with Clinton at 36 percent and Obama at 34 percent.

On the Republican side, McCain led with 32 percent, followed by Romney at 24 percent. At 13 percent was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who campaigned in Southern states.National polls show Obama narrowing Clinton’s lead, even as McCain appears to be widening his over Romney.

Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife by visiting four predominantly black churches in Los Angeles. The visits were viewed as an effort to counter suggestions that he injected race into the South Carolina Democratic primary.


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