MILWAUKEE – It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the campaign Hillary Rodham Clinton has run in Wisconsin, and that probably is just fine with her.
When she leaves Monday, she will have spent only about 48 hours here, far less than Barack Obama, with both candidates’ schedules disrupted Sunday by a snowstorm.
Her strategists have talked extensively about Texas and Ohio, which vote March 4, rarely mentioning Wisconsin and its primary Tuesday.
Even so, she has made a highly visible effort in the past week in Wisconsin, using a full range of political tools – toughly worded television commercials, top-level surrogates, satellite interviews, and conference calls with reporters – to create an effective presence.
Her hope is to blunt Obama’s momentum, either by beating him or coming close. Whatever the outcome, she’s positioned herself to say that it came without a full-fledged effort on her part.
State polls show only a single-digit gap between the two Democratic candidates in the race for 74 pledged delegates, with Obama leading.
“I’m hoping that Wisconsin is not going to let the rest of the country dictate how we vote,” said Dawn Foster, 50, a Clinton voter who lives in the town of Portage. “Obama says that Hillary feels she’s owed the nomination. I don’t see it that way. I think she’s earned it through all she’s done in her career.”
And Clinton has been fighting for it. Her campaign is taking on a newly assertive tone, a likely preview of what’s to come in Ohio and Texas, starting with a debate in Austin on Thursday.
Sunday, her aides blasted Obama for his recent statement in Milwaukee that he wasn’t sure whether he’d take federal funds in a general election against Republican John McCain. Previously, Obama had said he would accept the federal funds – and the accompanying limits on spending.
“He has made a promise to the American people that he is not keeping. That’s wrong,” said Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s chief spokesman. “You don’t get to make a promise and cast it off as if it had no meaning.”
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign was complaining about a Clinton mailing that allegedly misrepresented his stance on health care.
“We hope in Wisconsin people get past the distortions,” said the state’s governor, Jim Doyle, who noted with pride that his candidate, Obama, will have spent nearly a week in the state. “It’s too bad the Clinton campaign has gone to this.”