On The Presidential Campaign Trail, February 29th


Obama says Clinton ad scares voters, asks wrong question about national security ... McCain: Desire to renegotiate NAFTA would jeopardize Canadian military support ... Clinton campaign concerns on caucus rules prompts warning from state party about legal action ... Bill Clinton says wife is only candidate proven to bring change


Obama says Clinton ad scares voters

HOUSTON (AP) _ Democrat Barack Obama accused his rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday of trying to "scare up votes" with a television ad showing sleeping children and asking who would be more qualified to answer a national security emergency call at 3 a.m.

"We've seen these ads before," the Illinois senator said while campaigning in Texas. "They're the kind that play on peoples' fears to scare up votes. Well, it won't work this time. Because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is: What kind of judgment will you make when you answer?"

To the sound of a ringing phone, the Clinton ad shows children sleeping at night and a mother checking on a child as an announcer says a phone is ringing in the White House and something has happened in the world. It ends with an image of Clinton on the telephone as the announcer asks, "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safely asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"

In a speech to veterans and their families Friday, Obama responded:

"We've had a red phone moment. It was the decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer."

The 30-second ad began airing Friday in Texas, which holds its primary Tuesday.


McCain tags Dems on trade treaty

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) _ Republican John McCain said the desire by Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement would jeopardize crucial military support from Canada.

McCain used a town-hall style meeting Friday at Dell Inc. headquarters to emphasize his support for NAFTA. The effects of the 1994 trade pact are still hotly debated, but studies indicate the deal has resulted in record exports from Texas to Canada and Mexico.

Trade and national security are "interconnected with each other," the Arizona senator said.

"One of our greatest assets in Afghanistan are our Canadian friends. We need our Canadian friends, and we need their continued support in Afghanistan," McCain said.

Both Democrats said at a debate Tuesday in Cleveland they would insist on renegotiating NAFTA and would threaten to opt out of the agreement unless Canada and Mexico come to the negotiating table.


Texas party warns against legal action

LAREDO, Texas (AP) _ Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has raised the possibility of a challenge to Texas' primary and caucus rules just days before the contest, drawing a warning against legal action from the state's Democratic Party.

Top strategists for Democratic rival Barack Obama said Friday they supported the party's action, suggesting the Clinton campaign was trying to block the reporting of caucus results.

Clinton aides said earlier this week they were alarmed at the lack of clarity about many of the caucus rules and expressed their concerns on a conference call with Obama's staff and state party officials. Texas has a two-step voting process, with a primary and then caucuses shortly after the polls close.

Specifically, Clinton aides questioned a provision allowing caucus attendees to vote to move the location if they choose to do so, and whether people who had cast so-called "provisional ballots" in the primary would have their votes counted in the caucus.

They also expressed concern about the automated phone system precinct chairs would use to call in the results of each caucus, saying the party hadn't yet traned anyone to use the system properly.

Clinton political director Guy Cecil said he asked party officials to spell out the rules in memo form and to send them to both campaigns.

Cecil on Friday denied that the campaign planned to sue the party, which will manage roughly 8,700 caucuses Tuesday evening.


Clinton says wife would bring change

FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) _ Former President Clinton acknowledged on Friday that voters are torn between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"The truth is most like them both," Bill Clinton told an estimated 1,200 students and supporters at the University of Findlay, the first of five stops through Ohio.

While he never mentioned Obama by name, the former president said his wife is the only candidate who has proven she can bring about change. "It's one thing to talk about change, it's another to do it," he said.

Bill Clinton told the crowd his wife has fought for women's rights in China and is respected by people around the world. He also said her administration would restore America's global standing.

Ohio holds its primary Tuesday.



Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama hold campaign rallies in Texas.



John McCain held a town-hall style meeting with Dell employees in Round Rock, Texas. Mike Huckabee visits the Fort Worth Stockyards while campaigning in Texas.



"It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world." _ Announcer in a Hillary Rodham Clinton TV ad that was released Friday.



Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts garnered 68 percent of the vote in Rhode Island's Democratic primary in 1980. Jimmy Carter, who was the incumbent president, collected 26 percent.


Compiled by Ann Sanner.