On The Presidential Campaign Trail, March 4th


Day of reckoning for Clinton, Obama ... Hotly contested now, Ohio shapes up to be hard-fought again in fall campaign ... Clinton campaigns on Stewart show ... Obama restates mistake in real estate deal with Chicago businessman.


Clinton, Obama face day of reckoning

HOUSTON (AP) _ Barack Obama approached Tuesday's voting in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont as a chance to drive rival Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the Democratic presidential contest for good. Clinton looked at the same contests as a way to end Obama's streak of 11 straight victories and keep her candidacy alive.

Spending the night in the same Texas city, both expressed confidence in their chances. But both teams acknowledged that split decisions and close votes could prolong the battle for at least another month _ or more.

"We know this has been an extraordinary election. It continues to be. We're working hard to do as well as we can," said Obama, who planned to await Texas returns in San Antonio.

"I'm just getting warmed up," Clinton told reporters, a clear sign that she expects to press the campaign on beyond Tuesday no matter the outcome.

She was opening Election Day in Houston, but then heading back to Ohio for more campaign events. She will await results in Columbus before returning to Washington.

Polls show tight races in both Texas and Ohio. The Obama campaign saw Texas as their best opportunity, while the Clinton campaign saw Ohio as theirs. Texas offers 228 delegates, Ohio 164.

"Your voice can win an election," Obama told a noisy late-night rally in Houston. Repeating a signature election refrain, he shouted: "I have only one question for you: Are you fired up? Ready to go?" When the crowd roared its approval, he added: "Let's go change the world."


Ohio: Crucial now and in fall campaign

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ The presidential spotlight shines on this Midwestern state every four years, and for good reason. As Ohio goes, so goes the nation _ at least for the past 44 years.

Given the storied history and high stakes, it's easy to see why Ohio, in primaries and general elections alike, always seems to host races that are hard-fought, if not determinative.

This year is shaping up as more of the same.

"You're going to grow probably weary of seeing me in Ohio," likely GOP nominee John McCain told voters last week as he campaigned throughout the state. He mentioned at every turn that no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.

Not to be outdone, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton _ Democrats competing for the chance to face the Arizona senator _ repeatedly played to Ohio's pride of having chosen the eventual president in every election starting in 1964.

Republicans, Democrats and independent analysts expect a neck-and-neck contest again for the state's 20 electoral votes in November. Ohio tipped the election to President Bush four years ago, and could be poised for another high-profile role.

A recent Ohio Poll by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research showed that no matter which Democrat wins Tuesday's hotly contested primary, the general election race will be tight. Each Democrat is in a virtual tie with McCain in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.


Clinton campaigns on Stewart's show

NEW YORK (AP) _ With late-night comedy appearances seeming to work for her in the days before crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas, Hillary Clinton sought votes by matching wits with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Clinton was interviewed Monday via satellite at a campaign stop in Austin, Texas.

"This election is about judgment," Stewart said to her. "Yet tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life and you've chosen to spend the night before talking to me. Senator, as a host I'm delighted. As a citize, I'm frightened."

Responded Clinton: "It is pretty pathetic."

A different late-night show, NBC's "Saturday Night Live," seems to have boosted Clinton in the past two weeks. A Feb. 23 skit mocked journalists for going easy on Barack Obama and tough on Clinton. After she cited the skit in a real debate last week, it led many real reporters to examine whether or not there was some truth behind the comedy.

Another skit this past Saturday followed the same theme, and Clinton herself made an appearance.

To Stewart, Clinton said the vigorous campaign was good for Democrats and the country. She suggested it wasn't going to end soon, either.

"There's a lot of interest in letting the people who are still to come have their voices included in the process since it's so close," she said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow, but I'm feeling very optimistic and excited about Ohio and Texas."


Obama seeks distance from indicted donor

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama is reiterating the steps he has taken to separate himself from longtime donor Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago businessman whose political corruption trial is under way.

The Illinois senator was pressed by reporters Monday at a news conference about his relations with the 52-year-old real estate developer and fast-food magnate. Rezko is charged with buying political influence with campaign money and using it to launch a multimillion-dollar shakedown scheme aimed at companies hoping to build hospitals or invest state pension money.

Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case brought by federal prosecutors.

Questions about the relationship dogged Obama as he wound up campaigning on the eve of crucial primary votes in Texas and Ohio in his hard-fought contest with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama campaigned exclusively in Texas on Monday, a state that polls suggest he was more likely to carry than Ohio.

"Tony Rezko was a friend and supporter of mine for many years. These charges are completely unrelated to me, and nobody disputes that," he said. "There's no dispute that he raised money for us, and there's no dispute that we've tried to get rid of it."

So far, Obama has sent $150,000 in Rezko-related contributions to charity. The contributions were to Obama's Senate campaign and his earlier campaigns for the U.S. House and state Senate. He also was questioned about a 2006 real estate deal in which he became involved with Rezko, and he repeated an earlier description of the deal as "a boneheaded move."



Hillary Rodham Clinton holds an election night party in Columbus, Ohio. Barack Obama attends a primary election night event in San Antonio.



John McCain holds events in San Antonio and Houston before attending an election night party in Dallas. Mike Huckabee holds a primary watch party in Irving, Texas.



"It's overshadowing everything else because this is really important." _ 18-year-old Lisa Arriaga, a first-time voter in Texas, on the Democratic primary that is competing for attention with elections for state offices.



Rhode Island is heavily Democratic _ registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 3 to 1, although unaffiliated voters outnumber them both combined.


Compiled by Douglass K. Daniel