Barack Obama worked to fend off an intensified attack on his foreign policy credentials, while Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to fire up supporters with an economic populist message in the home stretch to races on Tuesday that could determine the Democratic presidential nominee.
Four states vote on Tuesday, but the focus is on the big states of Ohio and Texas. Recent polls show Hillary retains a lead in Ohio, although it has been narrowing. In Texas, her once formidable lead has all but vanished and the race is now seen as a dead heat. Hillary has lost 11 consecutive contests to Obama since February 5 and lags in the nominating convention delegate count. Most Democratic strategists see Texas and Ohio as must-win states if Hillary is to continue her candidacy, a view also expressed by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
A total of 370 delegates are at stake in Tuesday’s primaries in Ohio, Texas, and the smaller northeastern states of Vermont and Rhode Island.
Obama’s aides said privately that they felt they had a good shot at a win in Texas, but were less certain about Ohio, where they braced for a possible loss. Polls show Hillary leading in Rhode Island, but Obama ahead in Vermont.
“What precise foreign-policy experience is she claiming that makes her qualified to answer that telephone call at 3 am in the morning?” Obama asked of the former first lady at a town-hall meeting in Westerville, Ohio. It was a reference to dueling television ads over who would exercise superior judgment in responding to a national emergency in the middle of the night.
The two senators came close to running into each other in Westerville, a Columbus suburb, where Hillary spoke on Sunday at one high school and Obama spoke several hours later at another. Obama supporters boasted of a much larger crowd.
Hillary told more than 2,000 cheering backers in Westerville that she wants to solve the economic troubles facing Ohio and other industrial Midwestern states. “For some people this election is about how you feel, it’s about speeches,” the New York senator said. “Well, that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about solutions.”