Democrat Barack Obama is losing his edge over Hillary Clinton, after a much-acclaimed speech on race that pundits said had failed to defuse voters' anger over rage-filled sermons by his former pastor. (Report: M.MacCarthy)
TERRE HAUTE, Ind., March 20 (Reuters) - Democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a second
economic stimulus package on Thursday as a new poll showed her
maintaining her lead over Barack Obama among Democrats.
With surveys showing the economy the top issue on voters'
minds, Clinton called for new steps to address a deepening
housing crisis, including a $30 billion emergency fund to help
states buy foreclosed properties and provide mortgage
Clinton overtook Obama in a daily Gallup tracking poll
earlier this week and the latest survey showed her leading the
Illinois senator 49 percent to 42 percent in the contest to
select the Democratic nominee to face Republican Sen. John
McCain in November.
The poll was a snapshot of current popular feeling, but
Clinton trails Obama in the state-by-state contest for
delegates that began in January. The nominees are formally
chosen by delegates at the parties' conventions in the summer.
Clinton had hoped to try to chip away at Obama's delegate
lead with a rerun of Michigan's contested Democratic
presidential primary. But a Clinton-backed "do-over" proposal
effectively died in the Michigan Legislature when lawmakers
adjourned without considering the plan.
Obama opposed rerunning the Michigan primary. The Michigan
and Florida Democratic primaries were invalidated because both
states ignored party directives and held their balloting
earlier than allowed.
Obama, who would be America's first black president, is
trying to rebound after a rocky patch. He delivered a major
speech this week on race relations in an effort to explain his
relationship with his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev.
Obama condemned some of Wright's statements, such as his
assertion the Sept. 11 attacks were retribution for U.S.
foreign policy and that the U.S. government intentionally
infected blacks with the AIDS virus. But he refused to
dissociate himself from the preacher, who he said had done
great things for his Chicago community.
Much of the skirmishing on the campaign trail on Thursday
surrounded the North American Free Trade Agreement. Campaigning
in Indiana, Clinton, a New York senator, said she was never
enthusiastic about NAFTA despite records that showed she helped
her husband's drive to gain its passage.
The accord is deeply unpopular among Democrats in "Rust
Belt" states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which holds the next
nominating contest on April 22, because it led to the loss of
Both Clinton and Obama have vowed to renegotiate the deal
if elected to the White House.
While Clinton has talked of long being skeptical of NAFTA,
daily schedules of her time as first lady showed on Wednesday
that she spoke at an event in 1993 aimed at rallying support
for the accord.
"I have spoken consistently against NAFTA and the way it's
been implemented. At the time ... I spoke out about the
concerns that I had about NAFTA," Clinton said.
The Obama camp was skeptical. "Misrepresenting your
position and carefully parsing your words when you don't think
you'll get caught are the hallmarks of the kind of politics
that Barack Obama is running to change," his campaign said.
In Charleston, West Virginia, Obama said the $500 billion
cost of the Iraq war was a drag on the U.S. economy and
attempted to lay some of the blame for it on McCain.
He used a large portion of his speech to try to connect
McCain to President George W. Bush, accusing McCain of wanting
a "permanent occupation in Iraq."
"No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences,
John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush term,"
McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker said Obama's
statements showed he was wrong on both the economy and U.S.
Obama was offering "the tired tax and spend ideas of the
past" while promoting "an irresponsible policy of withdrawing
our troops from Iraq without regard for the conditions on the
ground," she said.
Date created : 2008-03-20