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White House Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton fought to stave off a wave of momentum for rival Barack Obama before a primary contest in Wisconsin that will hinge on a large working class vote.
Obama, on a roll after eight consecutive victories in the nomination race, hopes to extend his winning streak in the Midwestern state as well as in caucuses in Hawaii on Tuesday.
Polls showed a tight race in Wisconsin with the Illinois senator enjoying a narrow five-point lead over the former first lady, according to a new survey by Research 2000, US media reported.
The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday and showed 11 percent of voters remained undecided.
The candidates faced freezing temperatures as they tried to woo working class voters in Wisconsin, which has 74 delegates at stake and has played a historic role in past nomination races.
Bad weather on Sunday forced both candidates to cancel some events while Obama reportedly paid a visit to North Carolina to meet John Edwards out of the view of reporters. Edwards, a former rival in the White House race, has yet to offer an endorsement for either contender.
Senator Clinton, who has tended to do well among blue-collar workers elsewhere, has spent less time in Wisconsin and has instead pinned her hopes on delegate-rich Ohio and Texas on March 4 to stop Obama’s surge and turn the race in her favor.
As the Democratic candidates sought to rally the mostly white, working class electorate in Wisconsin, campaign officials and advocates argued over the role of “superdelegates” in selecting the party’s presidential nominee.
Trailing Obama in the popular vote so far, the Clinton campaign argued that hundreds of “superdelegates” — party activists and elected officials who get a vote at the Democratic convention in August — were not bound by the results of voting in their home states.
Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, a supporter of the former first lady and himself a superdelegate, told Fox television on Sunday the independence of superdelegates was part of the process, and “those are the rules.”
As a superdelegate, Strickland said “I think my responsibility is to vote my conscience, and I intend to do that.”
But Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, a pro-Obama superdelegate whose state votes Tuesday, said that approach would defy the popular will and damage the party.
“I think it would be an absolute disaster for the Democratic Party for the superdelegates to undo the will of the people who have been selected in the primaries and in the caucuses and by the rules that were set out,” he told Fox.
In a close race governed by elaborate party rules, neither candidate may emerge from the state-by-state primaries with enough regular delegates to clinch the Democratic Party nomination.
Hundreds of superdelegates would then hand one candidate the party’s mantle, and as of now, Clinton leads among those party leaders and lawmakers.
The candidates traded attacks in television ads and speeches, with Clinton painting Obama as inexperienced and lacking substance while he portrayed the New York senator as hamstrung by Washington’s partisan ways.
Hawaii, which has 20 delegates in play, is expected to break for Obama, who was born and raised there.
Including pledged superdelegates, Obama has 1,302 delegates so far, compared to 1,235 for Clinton, according to independent website RealClearPolitics. A total of 2,025 are needed for the nomination.
In the Republican race, front-runner John McCain is forecast to win easily against former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in Wisconsin and take another step to the 1,191 delegates he needs to secure the party’s presidential nomination.
With Huckabee lagging far behind, the Arizona senator already has 825 delegates in hand and has started to position himself for the November general election — charging that his Democratic rivals would raise taxes if elected.
Discussing the troubled US economy, McCain promised no new taxes in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“In fact, I could see an argument if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates, which are the second-highest in the world,” McCain said.