On a losing streak since the neck-breaking Super Tuesday primaries, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton faces a tough battle against her rival Barack Obama in the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas on Tuesday. Her opponent, on a winning streak, has scored eleven victories in the latest set of primaries in the run-up to the White House.
Candidates are now “neck-and-neck” and the outcome of the primaries in Texas and Ohio is unpredictable, Yannick Mireur, chief editor of the magazine “Politique Américaine”, told FRANCE 24.
The latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll showed Hillary Clinton gaining ground on rival Barack Obama to take a slim lead in Texas and pull even in Ohio.
But the stakes for Hillary are much higher, says Mireur. “If she does not win, it’s over for her.”
Obama has been closing the gap with Clinton, though the former First Lady had come out with a clear lead during the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5. “The Clinton campaign was not built to go on beyond Super Tuesday and they had little campaigning set up in Texas and few officers to run local campaigns. In truth, they did not see the Barack Obama train coming,” says Alison Smale, managing editor of the International Herald Tribune.
Targeting the Hispanic vote
In Texas, both Democratic candidates hope to seduce Hispanic voters, one third of the Texan electorate, with their focus on illegal immigration. The fight is heated as both Clinton and Obama hope to score a large chunk of the 228 delegates up for grabs.
“Clinton and Obama have very similar stances on illegal immigration. Currently, they are trying to “outbid” each other on immigration, promising to give work permits to large numbers of illegal immigrants, Olivier Richomme, professor at Lyon University and co-author of “L’Amérique de Barack Obama,” says.
Clinton scores especially high among older Hispanics who retain fond memories of the Clinton years and his softer stances on cross-border immigration. And Obama is courting younger Latinos as a way to chip away at Clinton's solid support among the old guard.
Blue collars uneasy on free trade
In Ohio, the rust-belt state with hard-core Democratic cities and firm conservative stock in rural areas, voters are expecting more than promises on economic issues.
The state's once-mighty heavy manufacturing sector has taken a hammering from globalisation, losing blue-collar jobs.
While free trade is seen as a boon in Texas, Ohio voters have been hit hard by unemployment. A recent study by the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition blames free trade for the loss of nearly a quarter of Ohio's manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2007.
While both Clinton and Obama have framed fiercely populist messages critical of free trade, neither has convinced voters they are ready to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
“The Clinton camp attacked Obama for being two-faced on the agreement while Clinton supporters were rejected for being fast and loose,” Smale told FRANCE 24.
161 Democratic candidates are up for grabs in Ohio including 20 super-candidates.
Quirky voting process in Texas
With its rather unique voting-process, Texas may prove favourable to Obama as the state holds a day-long primary followed by caucuses in the evening.
Only voters who took part in the primary, or cast their ballots early, can participate in the caucuses -- a forum that has favored Obama's younger, fired-up supporters in states such as Iowa, Colorado and Idaho.
Out of the total 228 delegates up for grabs in Texas, 64 will be chosen by the caucuses, raising the prospect of Clinton winning the popular vote in Texas but Obama taking more delegates