Obama Gets Front-Runner Treatment
Associated Press Writer
Barack Obama got the front-runner treatment Wednesday, picking up a few new friends and drawing criticism from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican foe John McCain.
Obama's friends came in the form of endorsements from at least four superdelegates, pushing him a bit closer to the 2,025 needed to secure the presidential nomination, and two unions _ the 1.4 million-member Teamsters and the 65,000-member International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.
The union endorsements provide crucial support in upcoming primary states with a strong labor presence _ Ohio on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22.
With fresh momentum off his wins in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday, Obama drew 17,000 to a rally in Dallas, then headed into preparations for a critical debate with Clinton on Thursday in Austin, Texas.
Obama told his boisterous audience to reject "those who would tell you not to believe."
"Today Senator Clinton told us that there is a choice in this race," Obama said. "And you know, I couldn't agree with her more. But contrary to what she was saying, it's not a choice between speeches and solutions. It's a choice between politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn't work in South Carolina and didn't work in Wisconsin and will not work in Texas."
He said he will offer the starkest contrast with McCain in the general election.
"It's a choice between having a debate with John McCain about who has the most experience in Washington or having a debate about who's most likely to change Washington," he said. "It's a choice between going into the general election with Republicans and independents already united against us, or running a campaign that has already united Americans of all parties around the agenda for change."
Some political observers say Clinton has no choice but to sharpen her criticism of Obama when they debate at the University of Texas. She showed her willingness to do so while raising money in her home state of New York, suggesting he has little to show for his eloquence.
"It's time to get real about how we actually win this election," Clinton said. "It's time that we move from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions."
Clinton took half a day to travel to the fundraiser, where she assured supporters her campaign will go on. That's a disadvantage against Obama, who can spend his time campaigning instead as money rolls in from donors who want to back a winner.
In Ohio, McCain criticized Obama for going back on a commitment to accept public financing in the general election. Obama, when he was the underdog in the race, had said he would participate in the taxpayer-funded system if the Republican nominee agreed to.
Instead, Obama has said if he defeats Clinton he will pursue an agreement with McCain with a list of conditions. That did not appear to satisfy McCain.
"That's Washington doublespeak," he said. "I committed to public financing. He committed to public financing. It's not any more complicated than that. I'll keep my word, and I want him to keep his."
Obama and Clinton are looking to reach 2,025 delegates to win the party's nomination. As of Wednesday, Clinton had 1,262 to 1,351 for Obama. His total included four new superdelegates _ Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Lloyd Doggett of Texas and two New Jersey officials, state Sen. Dana Redd and Democratic National Committee member Donald Norcross.
Superdelegates are separately chosen party and elected officials who can support whomever they choose at the nominating convention, regardless of what happens in the primaries.
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