(AP) IN THE HEADLINES
Democrat Obama accuses Bush, McCain of failed economic leadership ... Clinton offering plan to cut child poverty in half in a dozen years ... Georgia congressman joins chorus of Obama endorsements ... Bloomberg won't run, but will still be player in White House race ... Clinton, Obama hope to gain upper hand through early Texas voting
Obama slams Bush, McCain on economy
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Democratic Sen. Barack Obama rejected President Bush's claim that the country isn't headed for a recession, and slammed the economic policies followed by both Bush and Republican contender Sen. John McCain.
Things are getting worse, not better, and the country stands "on the brink of a recession," the Illinois senator and front-runner for the Democratic nomination said Thursday.
Obama blamed a "failure of leadership" in Washington, implying McCain was part of that failed leadership.
Clinton offers child poverty plan
HANGING ROCK, Ohio (AP) _ Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton is offering a plan to improve childhood nutrition and setting a goal to reduce by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty over the next dozen years.
A package of proposals, to be unveiled Thursday, includes a "comprehensive" early education initiative that starts with nurse's visits for pregnant women, lets children begin the Head Start program earlier and calls for universal pre-kindergarten programs.
The New York senator also says she would deal with childhood hunger by putting in place a food safety net, and give children "greater access to healthy, fresh food."
She was to spell out her proposals in a speech at the child care development center on Ohio University's southern campus.
Clinton aides said the new programs would carry and annual price tag of $5 billion to $6 billion. A significant portion of her plan comes by expanding existing programs. She would cover the cost by toughening enforcement to collect taxes currently owed but not paid.
Background documents outlining her proposal were provided to The Associated Press.
Rep. Barrow of Georgia backs Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. John Barrow became the third Georgia Democrat this month to announce his support for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Barrow, who had withheld his endorsement, said Thursday that Obama has demonstrated he can bring people together and work across the aisle.
"The more I saw and the more closely I watched, the more convinced I was that he was the best choice for bringing us together as a party and as a country," Barrow said Thursday.
Barrow narrowly won re-election last year and has been a top target for Republicans since first winning his seat in 2004. He is a Democratic superdelegate, meaning he has a vote at this summer's national convention in Denver.
Bloomberg: I'm not running for president
NEW YORK (AP) _ Mayor Michael Bloomberg has squashed the notion of running for president this year, declaring that he will not seek the White House but might put his support behind another candidate who embraces bipartisan governing.
Apparently ending a dance of presidential speculation that began more than two years ago, the 66-year-old billionaire businessman said in an op-ed piece in Thursday's New York Times that he will not launch his own bid but will work to "steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance."
"I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not _ and will not be _ a candidate for president," he wrote. "I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership."
Bloomberg aides and associates had been assembling the framework for an independnt campaign, and if he had decided to run, a $1 billion operation would have been ready to go.
Early voting in Texas cities swells
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Early voting in urban areas being targeted by Barack Obama has swelled to record numbers in Texas, outpacing the otherwise high turnout in areas of the state viewed as more favorable to Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy.
But a large percentage of Democrats in Clinton's targeted areas have cast early ballots, especially the heavily Hispanic areas along the Rio Grande in South Texas _ indicating her strategy of wooing early voters also may be bearing fruit.
The early voting patterns are one just measure of what to expect in the state's pivotal March 4 contest. After losing 11 straight primaries and caucuses to Obama since Feb. 5, Clinton has pinned the future of her struggling candidacy on wins in Ohio and in Texas, delegate-rich, diverse states. Clinton is ahead in Ohio, but the contest in Texas is much tighter, polls indicate.
Both campaigns' efforts to have supporters vote early have produced startling images in a state that has not seen a competitive Democratic primary since 1988.
Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a town-hall style meeting in Ohio before heading to an event in Texas. Barack Obama campaigns in Texas.
John McCain and Mike Huckabee campaign in Texas.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach _ and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy _ I'll join others in helping that candidate win the White House." _ New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
STAT OF THE DAY:
About 12.7 million people were eligible to vote in the Texas primary as of Feb. 20, 2008, according to preliminary figures from the Texas Secretary of State's office.