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From Superbowl to Super Tuesday, US greets epic battles

5 February 2008

SAN FRANCISO/NEW YORK – It was by all accounts the best Superbowl in American football’s history. But while they were watching the unfancied New York Giants come from behind to end the perfect season of the New England Patriots Sunday, a group of American men spent as much time discussing the epic political battle set for Tuesday as the epic battle on the field.

"My order of preference would be Obama, McCain, and then Hillary Clinton," said 52-year-old sales representative Greg Willis. "I would never vote for Romney."

More than 20 states will pick their preferred candidates Tuesday in the largest-ever single day of primary and caucus elections in the United States. Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain and former governor Mitt Romney are all jockeying for position.

Willis, who describes himself as an independent, said both his top choices were straight-speaking independents, unbeholden to the political establishment.

"Clinton has too much baggage to win a general election," said Willis – a polite way of referring to the salacious and scandal ridden years of her husband Bill Clinton’s administration. "She also is too calculating. I just don’t really trust her."

That attitude was echoed by Jeannie LePage, a college-educated liberal who should have been a natural for the Clinton camp. Instead she was planning to vote for Obama, citing a sense of vigour, energy and integrity about the man vying to be the first African-American president.

"It’s time for a change, someone who can bring a new approach – not the same old politics as usual," said LePage.

Others questioned whether either of the Democratic candidates could overcome the prejudices they would face nationwide by people unwilling to vote for a black or female candidate.

"It’s a concern," said William Clarkson, a financial adviser. "But remember: people who won’t vote for a black or for a woman, probably wouldn’t vote for any Democrat anyway."

The pro-Obama views reflected a remarkable surge in support for the charismatic 46 year old, who has cut a double digit poll lead that Clinton enjoyed just two weeks ago.

Another remarkable poll last week showed that interest in the elections was almost equal to that other matter of prime national interest – the Superbowl. But with the game ending in a victory for the underdog, all the news Monday was political – as analysts asked whether the underdog Obama was also on the verge of an unlikely victory.

The election eve surveys put Clinton and Obama neck-and-neck nationwide, and in the key state of California, which is the largest state up for grabs in the critical elections.

At one rally in the multi-ethnic Oakland, thousands of people waited for hours in the rain in the city’s Chinatown on Friday to hear Obama speak.

"Normally the Chinese community supports Hillary," said one man. "But there is such a buzz about this guy I thought I should at least hear him before I decide."

The race is less tight in New York, the second-most populous state voting Tuesday and the state which Clinton represents in the US Senate, but Obama has still generated plenty of buzz.

Pina Asconi, an Italian American with a home in Manhattan’s Little Italy, is a registered Democrat who wants a fresh face in the White House. She says she will vote for Illinois Senator Obama, but has mixed feelings because she also likes McCain.

"Both of them are honest," Asconi said. "But McCain is a patriot who has fought for this country."

Gloria Starr Kins, a McCain supporter, said most New Yorkers are tired of the US dynastic presidential line up of recent years. With two Bushes – President George W Bush and his father George HW Bush – and one Clinton already having occupied the White House, Kins believes the possibility of a second Clinton will be too much for people to bear.

"And why not Chelsea, too, in the future?" Kins said, referring to the Clintons’ 27-year-old daughter.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Super Tuesday, US elections