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Clinton camp challenges Obama to "win by more than 10" in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C.-- With the polls moving in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's direction in the Tar Heel State, following a string of problems for Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's campaign is making a last-minute push here.

A good showing here -- and a win or close call in Indiana on Tuesday -- will make it harder for uncommitted superdelegates to come out for Obama. "If he can't win by more than 10, he'll face serious questions," said Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway, setting the bar during a stop in Wake Forest where Clinton appeared at an outdoor rally with North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley.

"I know the difference between making speeches and implementing solutions," said Clinton, taking a shot at Obama.

She went on to talk about her plan for a gas tax holiday, an issue that has emerged -- as gas prices soar -- as a significant dispute between Obama and Clinton. Obama says dropping the tax will result in saving only coffee money and sees it as a gimmick.

Even so, the Obama campaign must be worried about her gas tax message: Obama on Saturday was running an ad in North Carolina and Indiana attacking Clinton's gas tax plan because it only saves an individual 30 cents a day.

A memo distributed by the Clinton team Saturday crowed about how Obama's lead in North Carolina has shrunk to the single digits. Obama once "enjoyed a lead of over 20 points in public polls throughout this year," the memo said, noting that Obama was outspending Clinton in North Carolina on television, with Obama at $4.9 million to $3.5 million for Clinton -- an investment Clinton's team may not have made weeks ago.

But that was before Obama was defeated by Clinton in Pennsylvania on April 22. He also is still suffering from two self-inflicted wounds: his remarks about "bitter" Pennsylvania blue-collar workers and his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom he broke with last Tuesday.

Clinton has been adding North Carolina stops, and Bill Clinton has worked about 50 events here, with another 15 today and Monday. Michelle Obama stumps here Monday. Obama and Clinton will return before Election Day.

Still, the shifting demographics -- and North Carolina's voting system -- favor Obama. The new residents flowing into this fast-growing state are younger, coming for jobs in high-tech industries, the profiles of people who have been voting for Obama in this extended primary season. The African-American Democratic primary vote could be close to 40 percent, according to estimates from North Carolina Democratic Party officials.

But no one is really sure what the turnout will be because North Carolina has never been in play like this for a presidential primary. North Carolina also has a generous early-voting system. Until 1 p.m. Saturday, people could not only vote -- if they were not registered, they could sign up, declare a party and vote on the spot. Interest is high. Some voting spots in the Raleigh area had long lines Saturday.

Clinton started the day outside of Raleigh working her female base at a forum sponsored by MomLogic, a Web site, where the topics were personal and she seemed to revel in the girlfriend chat about her career, her mother and daughter Chelsea.

She hinted she may not take a delegate fight to the convention in Denver, backing down from what seemed once almost a pledge to fight to the very very end. “Well, I plan on going all the through the next contests, West Virginia, Kentucky and others," she said.

Clinton revealed that “ I am the designated worrier about everything in this family,” though her mother, Dorothy Rodham could challenge her on that front.

Said Clinton, “My mother said to me the other day that she worries as much about me now--I tell her to turn off the TV, she wouldn’t worry so much.”

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 4, 2008 5:49 AM.

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