WASHINGTON (CNN) – Half a dozen Republican governors backed Arizona Sen. John McCain Monday over former GOP Arkansas governor and ex-National Governors Association chairman Mike Huckabee.
McCain “will present a very clear choice against whomever the Democrats nominate,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, backing McCain in advance of his state’s March 11 primary. “I don’t think I have to convince anybody of how liberal Sen. Clinton is. But, remarkable as it may seem, Sen. Obama’s voting record is even more liberal than hers. Barack Obama, if he wins the Democratic nomination, will be the most liberal candidate for president of the United States in the history of our country. And Sen. Clinton is about as liberal.”
“It will be the clearest contrasts between philosophies and world views that this nation, I believe, has ever seen,” added Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Although McCain leads in the GOP delegate count and is the party’s presumptive nominee, he has had trouble winning over the party’s conservative base. Barbour acknowledged Monday that “John McCain is not as conservative as Haley Barbour.” But the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee said it was “hugely unlikely” that a lot of conservatives would not support McCain in a match-up against Clinton or Obama, adding: “It is also something that we ought to be happy about – that McCain appeals so readily to moderates, to people who are not conservatives at all. That gives him a better chance of winning in November.”
Barbour and Perdue also sought to downplay the fundraising gap between McCain and the two remaining Democratic contenders. Hillary Clinton raised three times McCain’s $12 million haul in February; Barack Obama, whose campaign has not yet released his February fundraising totals, has said the Illinois senator has raised considerably more than that.
“This isn’t about dollars,” added Perdue. “It’s about the heart and soul and the votes of the American people.”
In a statement released by the McCain campaign, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley joined Barbour and Perdue in endorsing McCain, who headlined a major gathering at last month’s annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Washington.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
An average of five recent surveys out of Texas show Obama edging Clinton by 2 percentage points there, 47 to 45 percent. The so called “poll of polls” also shows 8 percent of likely Texas Democrats remain unsure of who to vote for.
Clinton is 5 points ahead of Obama in Ohio, according to CNN's average of six recent polls there, 48-43 percent. Nine percent of likely Ohio Democrats remain unsure.
Voters in Texas and Ohio will be joined by those in Vermont and Rhode Island Tuesday in what Clinton supporters admit is a critical test of strength for the New York Democrat following Obama's 11 straight wins.
The Texas average consists of surveys from Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle/Zogby (Feb 29-March 2), Belo/Public Strategies (Feb 27-March 1), American Research Group (Feb 29-March 1), MSNBC/McClatchy/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram/Mason-Dixon (Feb 27-29), and Fox News/Opinion Dynamics (Feb 26-28).
The Ohio average consists of surveys from Reuters/CSPAN/Houston Chronicle/Zogby (Feb 29-March 2), Quinnipiac (Feb 27-March 2), University of Cincinnati "Ohio Poll" (Feb 28-March 2), American Research Group (Feb 29-March 1), Cleveland Plain Dealer/Mason-Dixon (Feb 27-29), and Fox News/Opinion Dynamics (Feb 26-28).
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - On the heels of Hillary Clinton's new campaign ad suggesting Barack Obama is ill-equipped to handle an early-morning foreign policy crisis, the Illinois senator said he thinks his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination is becoming a "little desperate."
"I think she has got a little desperate toward the end of this campaign," Obama told ABC in an interview set to air Monday night. "[She] has been a lot more aggressive in her negative attacks."
Obama's comments come only days after the Clinton campaign released a hard-hitting television spot in Texas that portrays children asleep in their bed while a phone rings in the background. The ad's narrator raises the prospect of a foreign policy crisis and asks, "It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”
Obama's campaign denounced the ad, and the Illinois senator himself quickly hit back, saying Clinton's "red phone moment" came when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq. His campaign also released a rebuttal ad saying the person who answers the phone should be the one who had the "judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start."
"As I've pointed out, we've actually had a pretty significant moment in the last several years, that called people's judgment into question," Obama said in the ABC interview. "And that was the war in Iraq."
Speaking with reporters Sunday night, Clinton described the ad - and her tougher rhetoric on the trail - as an effort to draw distinctions between herself and Obama.
"I think it's a contrast that needed to be sharpened, because this is a big decision for people," she said. "And I want people to have as much information as possible as they make these decisions. So I think we are helping to get out the differences and raise some issues that are important."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
SEDONA, Arizona (CNN) - Instead of appealing for votes on the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain spent the weekend playing host at his rustic Arizona home - and on Sunday members of the traveling press corps were his guests.
It was a news-free zone, and a charm offensive to be sure - but also a window into the private setting and self-described oasis of the man who may be days away from mathematically clinching the GOP nomination, months after being left for political dead.
McCain greeted reporters as he tended to the grill - tongs in hand - on the deck of his ranch house. Clad in a green Maine Maritime Academy baseball hat, white sweat shirt with a photograph of his family on it, faded Levis jeans and New Balance sneakers, the presidential candidate stood over two large, sizzling barbecues, preparing baby back ribs and grilled chicken.
McCain revealed that barbecuing for guests is one of the few ways he relaxes, especially during the grueling campaign, and was eager to share his carefully honed recipe on the gas grill: baby back ribs (bought at Costco), cooked bones down with a dry rub that's a third garlic powder, a third salt and a third pepper.
The trick to not letting it dry out? Keep putting lemon juice on, the senator said.
TOLEDO, Ohio (CNN) - Hillary Clinton has hinted that her campaign is willing to take the nomination fight all the way to the convention. But on Sunday, she refused to look past March 4.
"I intend to do as well as I can on Tuesday, and we'll see what happens after that," Clinton told reporters on her campaign plane late in the evening.
The New York senator, nursing a beer from of a red plastic cup, and accompanied by actors and longtime friends Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, was in a cheery and reflective mood before the plane flew from Cleveland to Toledo.
"I just have to get up every day and do the best I can to win as many delegates as possible," Clinton told one reporter. "But I feel good about where we are."
Clinton wouldn't answer to comments made Sunday by prominent Democrats like Bill Richardson and John Kerry, an Obama supporter, both of whom suggested Clinton should consider leaving the race after Tuesday if she fails to close the delegate gap with Obama.
She said only, "I've had a wonderful time campaigning and feel really good about where we are and I am looking forward to the results on March 4."
Asked if she has succeeded in illuminating differences between herself and Obama, particularly in recent days on the topic of national security, Clinton argued she is raising important issues.
"I think we have been sharpening the contrasts," she said. "And I think it's a contrast that needed to be sharpened, because this is a big decision for people."
- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
A Danish journalist almost ended up in the middle of an international incident not far from President Bush's ranch Saturday. (Photo credit: Kaare Sorensen/Nyhedsavisen).
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) - A Danish journalist came this close to getting shot Saturday by an elderly woman packing a pistol near President Bush's ranch here in what was easily the strangest incident I've ever witnessed covering the White House.
It all started so innocently as I sat with a group of Danish journalists just down the street from Bush's ranch during a visit by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The two leaders were having lunch on the ranch, so I was waiting at a nearby historic one-room schoolhouse with White House staff to interview Rasmussen after the meal. Then the prime minister was going to do a brief press conference with the Danish press corps.
Terkel Svensson, a writer for the Danish News Agency, could not get wireless Internet access at the schoolhouse to file a story. But Svensson could get his cell phone working so he called his editor in
Copenhagen and started wandering across a quiet country road as he chatted away.
"I was just so occupied dictating my story that I didn't really see where I went," Svensson told me later. "I was just walking and talking."
What Svensson didn't realize was that he had stopped walking a couple hundred feet away, on the front lawn of an elderly woman. An elderly woman who looked through her window and didn't like that a strange man was standing outside her house. An elderly woman who had, um, a gun.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) - Hillary Clinton drew the early support of much of Ohio's Democratic Party and most of its high-wattage politicians. And she was the overwhelming choice of the blue-collar workers who form much of the state's Democratic base.
Barack Obama had his own staunch - if slightly less high-profile - Ohio loyalists: Valli Frausto and Jeanine Michael.
Now the Illinois senator has national momentum, and the resources to outspend Clinton on television advertising here by roughly 2-to-1. Still, as Tuesday's primary approaches and the battleground shifts from the airwaves to the the task of turning out the vote, the passion of a candidate's ground troops, not the size of the war chest, might be the most critical ingredient for success.
- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
Compiled by Jonathan Helman
CNN Washington Bureau
Columbus Dispatch: State Of Confusion
A projected record turnout Tuesday and voters' option to use paper ballots rather than touch-screens could delay results deep into the night and deepen mistrust of Ohio elections around the country.
Cincinnati Enquirer: Delegate Math Tough For Clinton
As much as Hillary Clinton wants to win Ohio on Tuesday, a two-percentage point win won’t do her much good. Under the complex mathematical formula the Ohio Democratic Party will use to divvy up the 141 delegates at stake in the Ohio primary, a candidate has to win big –really big – to win the lion’s share of the delegates.
USA Today: McCain Fending Off 'Mischaracterizations'
John McCain looks to formally nail down the Republican presidential nomination this week, though he is already operating in one fall campaign mode: fending off opposition attacks. The Arizona senator's campaign is busy fielding questions over his decision to pull out of the public financing system, his support of the Iraq war, lobbyists working in his campaign, an endorsement from a controversial evangelical, and even his place of birth.
Washington Post: Democratic Candidates Trade Gibes Across Ohio
Sen. Barack Obama sharply questioned Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's claims of extensive foreign policy experience Sunday, pushing back against her argument that only she is prepared to handle national security as president as the two raced toward a pair of potentially decisive primary contests.
NY Times: In Ohio, Tense Race Hinges on Grass-Roots Organizers
For all the endless rallies and the 1,400 television advertisements a day the candidates have run in the last weeks, it is the street-by-street ground war that will determine the outcome of the Democratic primary on Tuesday in Ohio. Phone calls must be made, doors knocked on, and every declared supporter dragged to a polling place, even if it means helping an elderly voter get dressed and providing escort to a waiting car.
Compiled by Jonathan Helman, CNN Washington Bureau
*Hillary Clinton starts the day in Toledo, Ohio where she engages with workers at the Chrysler Plant and attends a rally. Later she travels to Texas where she attends rallies in Beaumont and Austin and hosts a town hall meeting in Austin.
*Mike Huckabee is in Texas. He attends rallies and holds media availabilities in Dallas, Abilene, Midland, and San Antonio.
*John McCain holds media availabilities in Phoenix, Arizona and Lubbock, Texas and hosts a town hall meeting in Waco, Texas.
*Barack Obama hosts town hall meetings in San Antonio and Carrollton, Texas. Later, he attends a rally in Houston, Texas.