Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama straddled North
Carolina and Indiana on Monday on the eve of a pair of
crucial primaries in the unceasing contest for the
Democratic presidential nomination.
the race would stretch into June, regardless of Tuesday's
Each darted back
to North Carolina for some last-minute campaigning, with
polls showing Clinton chipping away at Obama's advantage
here. It was a brief diversion from the more
competitive Indiana, where each planned to return by
nightfall. At stake Tuesday were 187 Democratic delegates.
''In the end of
the day, you don't hire a president to make speeches, you
hire a president to solve problems,'' Clinton told a couple
hundred people in a gymnasium at Pitt Community
College in Winterville, N.C., pressing her claim of
She also kept up
her populist pitch and call for a summertime suspension
of the federal gas tax to help people facing rising fuel
prices. ''Let's listen to what the people are telling
us,'' Clinton said, ''because if we listen, we will
hear this incredible cry.''
campaigned among white, blue-collar workers in
Evansville, Ind., before flying to North Carolina. The
Democratic front-runner noted that the polls are very
tight and the day's schedule had him ''bouncing back
and forth'' between the two states.
as hard as we can and I desperately want every single
vote here, in North Carolina and in Indiana,'' the Illinois
senator said during an appearance at a construction
Later at a labor
hall Obama said he would make good on his campaign
pledges. ''I'm going to be a partner with you,'' he said.
''I'm going to be following through. But I need your
In both states
Obama was trying to recover from a rough patch and put
Clinton away after a difficult 16-month fight that has split
the party. The former first lady, meanwhile, hoped to
hang in the race with a win in one, maybe two states.
Her aides lowered expectations for a victory in North
Carolina, where Obama is favored, but sounded more
optimistic about Indiana, where demographics seem to
lean in her favor.
Obama is ahead in
the hunt for convention delegates -- 1,743.5 to
1,607.5, according to an Associated Press count Monday --
but Clinton senses an opening after a win in
Pennsylvania last month. Still, the delegate math
works to Obama's advantage, and it will be hard for Clinton
to overtake him.
ads, automatic phone calls and mailed literature flooded
both Indiana and North Carolina in the run up to Tuesday
while thousands of volunteers for both candidates
canvassed countless neighborhoods knocking on doors.
With far more cash on hand, Obama outspent Clinton by
an estimated $4 million to $5 million -- roughly a third
more -- on TV ads in both states combined.
had punishing schedules in the final hours. Clinton was
holding five events across the two states, while Obama was
jetting from Indiana to North Carolina and back again
over a several-hour span. Both were scheduled to end
their day well into the night, and they began it as
dawn broke with early morning appearances on TV networks.
interviews, Obama and Clinton both expressed confidence in
their chances of winning the Tuesday contests but
would not predict that voting this week would be
decisive enough to end the primary fight.
Today show, Obama predicted that after the final
contests June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, ''We will
be in a position to make a decision who the Democratic
nominee is going to be,'' he said. ''I will be the
to predict Tuesday's results, but said her campaign has
made up some ground after falling behind.
''I think we've
closed the gap,'' she said on CNN's American Morning.
Much of the
exchange Monday centered on proposals Clinton has embraced
to give drivers some relief from soaring gas prices.
Clinton pushed her plan for a summer suspension of the
gasoline tax, which she would pay for with a windfall
profit tax on oil companies.
Obama called that
plan a gimmick, and many economists expressed
skepticism. In a CBS News/New York Times poll released
Sunday, 49% of voters said they thought lifting the
gas tax for the summer was a bad idea. Only 45%
thought it was a good idea.
''I think a lot
of people don't understand my plan,'' Clinton responded
on CBS's The Early Show. ''I want to the oil
companies to pay that $8 billion this summer instead
of having the money come out of the pockets of
consumers and drivers.''
campaigning came as a new poll showed that most people
are being squeezed by higher gas prices.
Six in 10 say gas
prices have caused financial hardship for their family,
including one in five who said it is causing severe
problems, according to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp.
poll released on Monday. That's actually a bit fewer
than the number who said the cost of gasoline was hurting
them a year ago.
Eight in 10 said
they consider it likely they'll be paying $4 a gallon
sometime this year, and more than four in 10 said they
expect prices to hit $5 per gallon. (Liz Sidoti,