Saturday, March 1, 2008

Obama spends heavily to seek knockout blow

He'll try to leverage his financial advantage to force out Clinton

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally in Selma, Texas, on Friday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Taking advantage of his huge financial edge, Senator Barack Obama is buying large amounts of advertising and building extensive get-out-the-vote operations in Ohio and Texas in an effort to deal Hillary Rodham Clinton twin defeats on Tuesday that could end her bid for the presidency.

The intensity of Mr. Obama’s drive is especially apparent on television, where, using his huge financial advantage, he has outspent Mrs. Clinton by nearly two to one in the two states, helping him to eat deeply into double-digit leads in polls that she held just weeks ago.

But after a month in which she raised $32 million — a remarkable sum but still less than the $50 million or more brought in by Mr. Obama — Mrs. Clinton is fighting back. Their expenditures, combined with a travel schedule that sent Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama and their surrogates from border to border in Texas and Ohio, reflect the expectation that the voting on Tuesday may be climactic. Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have suggested that she will bow out of the race if she falters in either state, after 11 straight losses.

Their face-offs are not just on television. Mr. Obama has a town-hall-style meeting in Westerville, Ohio, on Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Clinton just announced one there, too. Mr. Obama will be at Westerville Central High School, Mrs. Clinton at Westerville North High School.

Close races in both states

Polls show the race deadlocked in Texas, while Mrs. Clinton’s lead in Ohio has been whittled away, though she does still lead.

“Senator Obama is spending a lot of money on TV — if this can be purchased, he can win it,” Gov. Ted Strickland, who has campaigned across the state with Mrs. Clinton, said in an interview. “I think we’ve survived the initial blast of the Obama phenomenon, and we’re now holding steady.”

In a sign of Mr. Obama’s confidence and his strategy of amassing delegates wherever he can, he spent part of Saturday in Rhode Island, which with Vermont votes on Tuesday.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides said she remained confident of winning Ohio and Texas and would press on with her campaign, as signaled by her increasingly tough attacks on Mr. Obama.

In recent days, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have pointed to Mr. Obama’s financial advantage, in what appears to be an attempt to lay the groundwork to stay in the race should she lose by a small margin, or squeak to victory by a few votes in either or both states. “They are dumping a lot of money there,” said Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist, referring to the Obama campaign.

Narrow Clinton victory not enough?

That said, Mrs. Clinton once enjoyed double-digit leads in both states, and her campaign had told supporters concerned about her string of losses that her campaign would get back on track after solid wins in Ohio and Texas. Democrats said that a narrow victory in both states might not be enough to stanch a flow of uncommitted superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders — to Mr. Obama who have until now deferred to the request by Mrs. Clinton’s advisers to wait for the vote in the two states.

Mr. Obama has spent about $10 million on television advertising in Texas from early in February through Election Day, campaign officials said; Mrs. Clinton has spent just less than $5 million. Mr. Obama has spent about $5.3 million for television advertising in Ohio, compared with just under $3 million for Mrs. Clinton, the officials said.

Those figures do not take into account substantial advertising being presented for Mr. Obama by the Service Employees International Union . It also fails to include money that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton spent in Texas on Spanish-language television and radio stations in a competition for Latino voters who Mrs. Clinton had once considered an unassailable part of her base. “I have many friends in Texas; I know your tradition and culture,” Mrs. Clinton said in one broadcasting in Houston this weekend, speaking into the camera as subtitles translate her remarks into Spanish.

Mr. Obama’s financial advantage is helping him beyond the airwaves.

His campaign flew 200 paid organizers from across the country to 10 campaign offices in Texas right after the Feb. 5 primaries, aides said, when some of Mrs. Clinton’s staff members were volunteering to work without pay. Another 150 were sent to build get-out-the-vote networks in Ohio, working for Paul Tewes, who was the Obama campaign’s director in Iowa, where Mr. Obama’s eight-point victory gave his campaign a boost.

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