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Obama and Clinton in final Super Tuesday rush

5 February 2008

WASHINGTON – Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were entering Tuesday’s massive vote in a neck-and-neck battle for the Democratic nomination, while Republican John McCain hoped to become his party’s clear choice by the end of the day.

A series of polls published over the weekend showed Obama gaining on Clinton – once the Democratic Party’s presumed frontrunner – placing the two in a statistical dead-heat going into Tuesday, when voters in 24 states will weigh in during the largest one-day of primary elections and caucuses in US history.

Former first lady Clinton crisscrossed the north-east on Monday in a last day of campaigning and planned a virtual town hall meeting in the evening, where the New York senator was to take questions online in a forum streamed over her website.

Obama, who is vying to become the first African-American president, was campaigning in the same region with some major endorsers at his side. Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy, the brother of former president John F Kennedy, were to hold a joint rally in Massachusetts later Monday.

On Sunday, Obama picked up the endorsement of Maria Shriver, a niece of Kennedy and the wife of California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last week endorsed McCain.

Shriver at a rally Sunday night said Obama "is about the power of us, and what we can do when we come together. Because as everybody up here has said, there is much more that unites us than divides us."

McCain, an Arizona senator, enters Tuesday’s race the clear frontrunner for his party’s nomination ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. McCain won the Florida and South Carolina primaries in the last two weeks and picked up the endorsements of one-time presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and Schwarzenegger.

Romney may gain some momentum from a victory in the Maine caucus held over the weekend. The tiny north-eastern state held a three-day caucus that began Friday, but was largely ignored by the candidates, who instead focussed on the Super Tuesday contests. Romney won the state with 53 percent to McCain’s 21 percent.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and dark horse who has been running a strong third in the Republican race since winning the first vote in Iowa on 3 January, is counting on victories in some of the southern states voting Tuesday to keep his campaign alive.

A total of 24 different states will hold elections on Tuesday – 22 for the Democratic nomination and 21 for the Republicans – including California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia and Illinois. The vote is key in determining who will represent each party in the 4 November elections.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Super Tuesday, US elections