On The Presidential Campaign Trail, February 27th


Clinton focused on upcoming states, not leaving race ... McCain and Obama tangle long distance over al-Qaida in Iraq ... Clinton won't release tax returns until she's the Democratic presidential nominee ... North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan endorses Barack Obama ... Poll: Pennsylvania Democratic race tightens as Obama gains on Clinton

Clinton looks ahead to Tuesday's races

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is optimistic about Tuesday's upcoming primaries and isn't thinking about dropping her presidential bid after their results.

"I don't think about it like that," she told reporters aboard her campaign plane between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. "I'm doing everything I can to win. That's what I intend to do."

"I feel good about these upcoming states," she added.

Rival Barack Obama has won 11 straight primaries and has been increasingly gathering delegates. Delegate-rich Texas and Ohio are among four states holding primaries Tuesday. Rhode Island and Vermont also have contests.

"What keeps me going is knowing I would be the best president," she said. "I know that I could handle the problems we have here at home and around the world and I believe I'm the best candidate to take on John McCain in what will be a very challenging election."

Clinton said she was pleased by Tuesday's debate. "There were some real contrasts that were drawn," she said.

McCain, Obama spar over al-Qaida in Iraq

TYLER, Texas (AP) _ Republican presidential hopeful John McCain mocked Barack Obama's view of al-Qaida in Iraq, and Democratic contender responded that GOP policies brought the terrorist group there.

The rapid-fire, long-distance exchange Wednesday underscored that the two consider each other likely general election rivals, even though the Democratic contest remains unresolved.

McCain criticized Obama for saying in Tuesday night's Democratic debate that, after U.S. troops were withdrawn, as president he would act "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."

"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called 'al-Qaida in Iraq,'" McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas, drawing laughter at Obama's expense. He said Obama's statement was "pretty remarkable,"

Obama quickly answered back while campaigning in Ohio. "I do know that al-Qaida is in Iraq and that's why I have said we should continue to strike al-Qaida targets," he told a rally at Ohio State University in Columbus.

"But I have some news for John McCain," Obama added. "There was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq. ... They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al-Qaida in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001."

Clinton won't release taxes soon

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she won't release her tax returns until she has the Democratic presidential nomination in hand, and not before tax filing time comes in mid-April.

Clinton argued for openness Tuesday night during her latest debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama.

"I will release my tax returns," Clinton said during the debate. "I have consistently said I will do that once I become the nominee, or even earlier."

Pressed about the timing of releasing her tax returns, campaign aides were more reticent Wednesday, indicating that Clinton would not release the sensitive financial data during a hotly contested primary, but only at tax filing time.

"As is customary, as the Democratic nominee Senator Clinton will release her tax information in April at tax time," said spokesman Jay Carson.


Sen. Dorgan endorses Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday, citing his record on trade.

"Senator Obam has never felt ... that NAFTA was good for America," Dorgan said in a campaign conference call with reporters.

Dorgan said Obama has supported key trade issues. "He and I feel the same way. We both believe in trade and plenty of it. We just insist it that it be fair to our country _ the rules be fair."

NAFTA, the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, is unpopular with blue-collar workers whose votes are critical in the Democratic primary Tuesday in Ohio.

Obama has won 11 straight primaries and caucuses since Super Tuesday, increased his advantage in the all-important delegate count and has attracted the support of his congressional colleagues. On Tuesday, he secured the endorsement of one-time presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Clinton has been endorsed by 13 of her Senate colleagues, Obama 10.

Poll: Pa. Democratic race tightens

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Barack Obama is closing in on rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's once 16-percentage-point lead in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Clinton led in this survey by 52 percent to 36 percent just two weeks ago. The latest poll indicates that her lead is down to 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Pennsylvania's primary is not until April 22, but the poll is yet another measurement of Obama's momentum. In two weeks, voters under age 45 have gone from favoring Clinton by 11 percentage points to preferring Obama by 17 points. She leads among women, whites, older voters and those without college degrees; Obama leads among men, blacks and college graduates. A quarter of each candidate's supporters say they might change their minds about whom to back.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted by telephone from Feb. 21-25. It involved interviews with 506 likely Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.


Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a forum on the economy and rallies in Ohio. Barack Obama holds a rally in Ohio before heading to Texas to campaign.


John McCain holds town-hall style meetings in Texas.


"My friends, if we left, they (al-Qaida) wouldn't be establishing a base. They'd be taking a country, and I'm not going to allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender. I will not surrender to al-Qaida." _ Republican John McCain, on what would happen if troops are withdrawn from Iraq.


John McCain won Vermont's Republican primary in 2000 with 60 percent of the vote, compared with George W. Bush's 35 percent.

Compiled by Ann Sanner.