Campaigns Clash Across U.S.


By: Wall Street Journal

Words Sharpen as Hopefuls Stump for Primary Votes
By AMY CHOZICK

NEW YORK — With the Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests behind them, Republican and Democratic candidates have altered their messages and stepped up their attacks in a cross-country effort to win over voters in states with contests in coming weeks.

Yesterday Democratic Sen. Barack Obama discussed the housing crisis with voters in Reno, Nev., while rival Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke to union workers in her home state of New York. Republicans Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain duked it out in Michigan, while Rudolph Giuliani campaigned in Florida. Meanwhile, Democrat John Edwards and Republican Fred Thompson, both native Southerners, campaigned in South Carolina.

With no clear front-runner in either party and a wide swath of states preparing for polls, candidates are diverging. The fragmented campaign trail leads to elections in Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida in the next two weeks and then the nearly two dozen states that will hold nominating contests on Feb. 5, or “Super Tuesday.” About half the delegates needed for nomination will be awarded on that day, which could mean these contests — including big-prize states New York, California and New Jersey — will determine both parties’ nominees.

After debating about border security, same-sex marriage and abortion, Republicans stumping in Michigan yesterday focused their attention on economic uncertainty. Messrs. McCain and Romney, the candidates with the most riding on the Michigan primary today, have both reached out to the state’s embattled auto workers.

Speaking at the Democratic Economic Club yesterday, Mr. Romney blamed Washington for auto workers’ problems. “From legacy costs to health-care costs to [fuel economy] costs, to embedded taxes, Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer,” the Michigan-born CEO-turned-governor said.

Mr. McCain echoed a similar sentiment campaigning in the state’s more conservative and heavily Republican western side. “The best, most productive workers in the world reside in this state,” the Arizona senator said at a rally at Kalamazoo Christian High School. “We’re not going to leave these people behind.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has been focusing on South Carolina, made a brief stop in Michigan. The candidate switched gears to cast himself as the only Republican candidate who understands the struggles of working-class people.

“If you want somebody who believes the status quo is just fine, you have plenty of choices,” he said, taking a dig at rivals during an early morning rally in Augusta.

Mr. McCain has 27% support in Michigan, compared with 24% for Mr. Romney and 15% for Mr. Huckabee, according to a Reuters/CSpan/Zogby poll. Other polls put Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain even closer.

Meanwhile, fighting among the Democrats intensified yesterday even as they scattered their campaign efforts nationwide. Yesterday morning Mr. Obama held a roundtable discussion with voters in Reno to talk about the foreclosure crisis. “Here in Nevada, the foreclosure crisis is four times the national average, and the economic impact in this state is expected to cost over $1.6 billion,” the Illinois senator said. “This is an outrage.”

But the outrage voiced by the Obama campaign was over a Clinton fund-raiser who allegedly made a reference to Mr. Obama’s past admitted drug use. Robert Johnson, a prominent African-American businessman, said in defending former President Clinton at an event in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday that the Clintons have been “deeply and emotionally involved in black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book.”

The Clinton campaign said Mr. Johnson was referring to Mr. Obama’s public service, not his drug use.

This “tortured explanation doesn’t hold up against his original statement,” an Obama spokesman said in a statement.

Across the country in New York, Mrs. Clinton was on instant-response mode yesterday against implications from the Obama camp that she sought to diminish the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.

The New York senator spoke at a Manhattan event honoring the civil rights leader. “We need to be recommitted to Dr. King’s dream,” she said, standing on stage with black union leaders and elected officials.

The controversy started last week when Mrs. Clinton told Fox News “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” On Sunday during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mrs. Clinton accused the Obama camp of “deliberately distorting” her words, a claim that the Obama camp called “ludicrous.”

During a conference call yesterday, the Clinton campaign questioned Mr. Obama’s pro-abortion-rights record, saying that the Illinois senator, rather than taking a stance, voted present on several significant abortion issues.

A recent poll of 500 likely caucus-goers conducted by the Reno Gazette-Journal put Mr. Obama slightly ahead of Mrs. Clinton in Nevada, with 32%, compared with Mrs. Clinton’s 30%. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 27%. The Clinton campaign has said that it is focusing on Feb. 5 states.

–Elizabeth Holmes and Jackie Calmes contributed to this article.

Write to Amy Chozick at amy.chozick@wsj.com

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