|NEW POLL: Obama beats McCain 53% to 36%; Clinton losses to McCain 40% to 49%|
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The best political gift of the day for Barack Obama’s campaign has been served up by Iowa’s Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the swing state that put the Illinois senator on top in possible head-to-head match-ups in the fall election.
The poll shows Obama ahead of Republican nominee John McCain by a substantial margin, 53-36. A head-to-head match between McCain and Hillary Clinton shows McCain is the preferred choice, 49-40.
The poll comes as Clinton continues on the campaign trail to say that she is best equipped to beat McCain in the general election. The New York senator is under mounting pressure to win both of the big-state contests of Texas and Ohio, which vote with Rhode Island and Vermont on March 4.
If she doesn’t, two Democratic governors suggest it could be curtains for her campaign.
“She’s the leader in both states in the polling now, but what we see in the Obama campaign is really strong momentum in both Ohio and Texas. And if she’s not able to win both, I think it makes it mathematically very difficult for her,” said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, an Obama supporter.
“She turns that momentum around if she does well there. If she doesn’t, I think she’ll have to review where she stands, and that’s what the former president talked about this week,” added New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who appeared with Kaine on “FOX News Sunday.”
Out on the campaign trail Sunday, the candidates addressed the big buzz caused by Ralph Nader’s decision to enter the race. The famed consumer advocate announced he will again run for president — his third effort, one that is sure to anger Democrats who are still miffed over his role in the 2000 race that many believe cost Al Gore the election against George W. Bush.
Nader said Sunday he’s not the reason Gore lost the election and blamed everything from voter fraud in Miami to the Supreme Court. In any case, he said, that’s no reason why he shouldn’t run.
“The political bigotry that’s involved here is that we shouldn’t enter the electoral arena? We — all of us who think that the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy, choice, dissent — should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two parties own all the voters and turn the government over to big business?” he asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he announced his candidacy.
Asked about the possible impact, Obama and Clinton both downplayed it while also criticizing Nader.
“Mr. Nader is somebody who if [you] don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, [he] thinks you’re not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work,” Obama said. “Historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers, so in many ways, he is a heroic figure and I don’t mean to diminish him, but I do think there’s a sense now that, you know, if somebody’s not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda then you must be lacking in some way.”
Clinton was also less than enthusiastic.
“Obviously, it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is. But it’s a free country. I don’t know what party he’ll run on. Where did he run on last time? Does anybody remember? Was it on the Green Party? Well, you know, his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it,” she said.
Clinton, who was traveling in Providence, R.I., tried to emphasize that state’s importance, as her campaign noted the latest American Research Group poll has her above Obama by 12 points in that state. The same poll has her down 26 points in neighboring Vermont.
Clinton continued to compare her and Obama’s plans for healthcare, and said universal healthcare is only effective if it’s mandatory.
“Of all our differences, the one that is just inexplicable to me is [Obama’s] refusal to put forth a plan on universal healthcare, and his continuing attacks on my plan to do so. I believe Senator Obama says one thing in speeches, but his campaign does something else. In his speech, he says he’s for universal healthcare, but his plan is not. His plan cannot cover everyone, because there is no requirement that people be covered. That would be as though Franklin Roosevelt had said, ‘Social Security is a good idea, but we shouldn’t make it required. Let’s just sort of go halfway and see what happens.’ Or if President Johnson had said, ‘Medicare is a good idea. Why don’t we cover a lot of but not all of our seniors?’” she said.
Clinton also hit again on Obama’s rhetorical flair, suggesting that while inspiring, he doesn’t solve problems.
“Now I could stand up here and say, let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified. The sky will open, the light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect. Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear,” Clinton said.
For his part, Obama, campaigning in Ohio where the two are set to debate Tuesday night, hit Clinton on her support for NAFTA, the free trade agreement signed into law by Bill Clinton.
NAFTA has cost 50,000 jobs in Ohio, Obama said, while acknowledging that a repeal of the trade deal “would probably result in more job losses than job gains in the United States.”
Still, speaking to factory workers in a working class community west of Cleveland, Obama continued to repeat his contention that Clinton supported the trade deal up until she decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. He added that Clinton can’t run from the Clinton administration record, of which she claims to have been a key part.
The former first lady has “essentially presented herself as co-president during the Clinton years. Every good thing that happened she says she was a part of and so the notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn’t politically convenient, that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “If she suggested she had nothing to do with economic policy in the Clinton White House then it would not be fair for me to bring it up but as you know, that’s not the claim that she is making.”
A spokesman for Clinton, Phil Singer, said the former first lady was critical of NAFTA long before she ran for president. He cited remarks from March 2000 in which she said, “What happened to NAFTA, I think, was we inherited an agreement that we didn’t get everything we should have got out of it in my opinion. I think the NAFTA agreement was flawed.”
Singer also said that in 2004 in Illinois, Obama spoke positively of the trade agreement, saying the United States had “benefited enormously” from exports under NAFTA.
Obama also addressed questions about his patriotism, saying that Republicans who want to point to his not putting his hand on his heart during the national anthem or his wife’s comments that she is only now proud of America, will not win the argument.
“The way I will respond to it is with the truth — that I owe everything I am to this country,” he said, adding that he will fight back with the charge that Republicans are the “party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor that they needed or [are] sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or [are] undermining our Constitution with warrant-less wiretaps that are unnecessary. That is a debate that I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism is.”
FOX News’ Steve Brown, Bonney Kapp and Aaron Bruns and The Associated Press contributed to this report.