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Clinton, Obama make final push for N.C. votes

DURHAM (AP) ó Dueling over gas prices, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama strained for every last vote on Monday, the eve of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries that are the biggest prizes left in their epic Democratic nomination fight.
Her TV ads promoted her plan for a summer-long gas-tax holiday and contended she was the candidate who ěgets it.î He said the plan was just another Washington stunt.
A combined 187 delegates are at stake in the two states, nearly half of the pledged delegates left with eight primaries to go before voting ends in a month.
Obama was the favorite in North Carolina, but both candidates campaigned vigorously there with polls showing a tightening race since Clintonís win in Pennsylvania two weeks ago. Indiana was considered tighter, with most polls in the final days showing Clinton taking the lead.
Obama hurried back and forth between the two states, pleading for votes. ěI want your vote. I want it badly,î he said on a factory floor in Durham, one of many stops aimed at winning over working-class voters. He is hoping to gain support from a group that has not greeted his candidacy enthusiastically ó white, mostly male construction and factory workers.
Clinton, also campaigning in North Carolina, campaigned for blue-collar votes, too, talking about the hard times the country faces.
ěItís time to quit wringing our hands and start rolling up our sleeves,î she said.
Pain at the gas pump has become a big issue in the long campaign that started out focusing on the Iraq war.
Oil futures reached a record of more than $120 a barrel Monday, raising concerns about even higher prices for gasoline. In a new 30-second ad featuring drivers complaining about the price of filling up, Clinton touted her plan to cut gas taxes over the summer and said Obama was just attacking her idea ěbecause he doesnít have one.î
ěBarack Obama wants you to keep paying, $8 billion in all,î an announcer says. ěHillary is the one who gets it.î
Obama responded with his own spot that said Clinton was offering ěmore of the same old negative politics.î It points out a New York Times editorial that said sheís taking ěthe low roadî and that her criticism does ěnothing but harm.î
The ad didnít point out that the same editorial said Obama is contributing to the negative nature of the campaign by ěincreasingly rising to Mrs. Clintonís bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher, more inclusive form of politics.î
Obama said the proposal to suspend the 18.4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 24.4-cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day would provide little in actual savings to motorists. He said oil companies would quickly raise prices to make up the difference.
ěItís a stunt. Itís what Washington does,î Obama said in Evansville, Ind.
Obamaís stance was backed up by 230 economists who released a letter Monday opposing the gas tax holiday. The signers included four Nobel Prize winners and economic advisers to presidents of both parties.
A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll released Monday found six in 10 saying gas prices have caused financial hardship for their families. Eight in 10 said they consider it likely theyíll be paying $4 a gallon sometime this year, and nearly half said they expect prices to hit $5 per gallon.
Any belt-tightening didnít extend to the presidential campaigns, with Obama outspending Clinton in both states. By Clinton campaign estimates, Obama has spent $5.6 million in Indiana to Clintonís $3.2 million. In North Carolina, the Clinton campaign said, Obama has spent $4.9 million to Clintonís $3.5 million.
Both candidates have had supporters spending money in Indiana as well. The Service Employees International Union, which is backing Obama, spent about $1.1 million in the state, much of it on ads. The American Leadership Project, which has received most of its money from labor groups backing Clinton, spent more than $1 million on ads in Indiana that questioned Obamaís economic policies.
North Carolina and Indiana are important because they are the largest states left to vote, but they cannot mathematically settle the nomination. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win, and Obama had 1,745.5 to Clintonís 1,608 Monday.
Obama continued to close Clintonís long-held lead among superdelegates, those party leaders who arenít bound by the outcome of state contests. He picked up two from Maryland Monday, leaving him trailing Clinton 269-255.
Clintonís main hope for winning the nomination is to persuade most of the roughly 220 superdelegates still undecided to disregard his lead in the delegate chase and support her instead. The Clinton campaign also hopes to get a boost by getting delegates from Michigan and Florida seated.
The Democratic National Committee disqualified those delegates last year because the two states held their primaries too early. Clinton won both contests after all the candidates pledged to boycott the campaigns.
The DNCís Rules and Bylaws Committee has scheduled a meeting May 31 to consider seating delegates from the two states. Asked about a report over the weekend in the Huffington Post that the Clinton campaign is encouraging supporters on the committee to reseat the delegations, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said, ěIf itís a secret that we want the delegations from Florida and Michigan seated, itís the worst kept secret in American politics.î
Bill Clinton to stop in Lexington today; Obamas in Raleigh
RALEIGH (AP) ó Former President Bill Clinton will spend primary day in North Carolina drumming up support for his wifeís bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, while Sen. Barack Obama hold a rally after the polls close.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clintonís campaign announced Monday night that the former president will make stops in Huntersville, Lexington, Winston-Salem and Durham.
Bill Clinton will be in Lexington at 11:30 a.m., where he will stop in at Lexington BBQ at the intersection of Business Interstate 85 and U.S. 64.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, will appear at North Carolina State University for an election party.

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