USA - VOTE 2008

Clinton says that, like 'Rocky', she won't quit

As polls put Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton behind her rival Barack Obama, the New York senator vowed to continue her battle, comparing herself to the film character Rocky.


Barack Obama's White House campaign thrust deep into enemy territory Tuesday, with speeches in rival Hillary Clinton's family turf of northeastern Pennsylvania where she too aimed to woo support.

Amid their cat-and-mouse pursuit of the eastern state's Democratic voters, both candidates had back-to-back appearances slated for the sister cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, old coal-mining centers nestled along the Susquehanna River.

Nearing the end of his six-day tour of the state, Obama is pushing into the core of Clinton country in an uphill fight for a state strongly leaning for her as its April 22 primary approaches.

Clinton, who effectively needs to win Pennsylvania in order to keep her nomination hopes alive, likened herself to the scrappy underdog boxer of the "Rocky" movie series in rebuking some Obama supporters for urging her to drop out of the race.

"That's not the way it works," Clinton jabbed in a speech in Philadelphia before heading to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

"Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up."

Obama downplayed the divisiveness of the tooth-and-nail fight with Clinton, stressing to supporters here that the Democrats' prime objective was to oust the Republicans from eight years at the White House helm.

"It's creating excitement and interest that will serve the Democrats very well," Obama said of the neck-and-neck race.

"If we stay focused on the fact that there are people out there that are counting on us to do something on health care, on the home mortgage issue, on the Iraq war, the Democrats will win."

Although Clinton has local connections in northeastern Pennsylvania -- her great-grandparents immigrated to Scranton from Wales around 1880 -- Obama's campaign says there was huge demand to see the Illinois senator, who is seeking to become the country's first African-American president.

Backing for Clinton -- herself aiming to be the country's first female president -- is deep in this area, a center of the former US east coast industrial belt and proud of its blue-collar workingman traditions.

Clinton currently represents neighboring New York in the US Senate. Her grandfather worked from his childhood in an area lace mill, and her father Hugh E. Rodham was born in Scranton and grew up in the city before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where Clinton was born and raised.

"She's tough. That's a real Scranton trait. That's an anthracite trait," said Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty, referring to the type of coal mined from the area.

Obama's backers say local people were scrambling to hear what he had to say. Some 2,000 people packed into a gymnasium at Wilkes University for Obama's speech Tuesday.

Clinton was to make an appearance at the same location later Tuesday.

"It's really exciting to be in the spotlight. No one thought Pennsylvania would be this important in the election," said Cathy DeGliosio of nearby Lake Ariel.

Wilkes University professor Thomas Baldino said Pennsylvania is crucial to Clinton, who will need to show she has momentum to carry on the fight through the remaining 10 nominating contests.

"If she wins really big in Pennsylvania ... she will be able to say she won all the big important states," Baldino said.

"But if she wins by only a handful of points -- perhaps three or four -- it will be an important symbolic win for Obama and pressure could increase for Clinton to drop out of the campaign."

A new poll Tuesday showed Obama eating into Clinton's lead in the state. According to the Rasmussen Institute, potential voters put Clinton ahead of Obama by just five points, 47-42 percent, compared to Clinton's lead of 10 points last week and 15 points in early March.

The tight contest between the two, with Obama leading Clinton in the fight for the all-important delegates to the party's August convention to decide their nominee, will likely spark a record turnout in the Pennsylvania primary.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 100,000 new voters have registered as Democrats and 132,000 others have changed their party affiliation to Democrat, pushing the number of registered Democrats state-wide to a record of more than four million, compared to three million Pennsylvanians registered as Republicans.

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