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Clinton Now Looking Beyond S.C.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters at a rally in Salinas, Calif, where she received the endorsement of the United Farm Workers union.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters at a rally in Salinas, Calif, where she received the endorsement of the United Farm Workers union. (By Elise Amendola -- Associated Press)

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"I have a couple of obligations that I have to meet today and tomorrow, but my husband and my daughter are in South Carolina, and we are waging a very vigorous campaign in South Carolina," Clinton said. "We are obviously on the ground, pushing hard."

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But Clinton strategists have done the math. More than four in 10 of the delegates awarded on Feb. 5 (the day when half the overall Democratic delegates will be won) lie in the four states at the heart of their plan: California, New York, New Jersey and Arkansas.

Obama, equally aware of the quirky math of the nominating process, began his ground operation months before Clinton. Because of her huge national name-recognition advantage, "it was important to get up and operational early," said Steve Hildebrand, a senior Obama adviser. The one exception is Illinois, Obama's home turf.

The Obama campaign's heavy emphasis on grass-roots organizing, which served it so well in Iowa, has led it to target the six states that will hold caucuses rather than primaries on Feb. 5. These are typically lightly attended affairs, but they could deliver big returns if Obama can follow his Iowa model of identifying a pool of supporters, including nontraditional participants such as college students and independents, and methodically turning them out.

The big three in that category are Colorado, Kansas and Minnesota. But the campaign also is active in North Dakota, where Obama has three offices; Alaska, where he has two; and Idaho, where he has one. To help balance out Clinton's edge with Democratic Party faithful, Obama is seeking endorsements in all six of the caucus states and may be close to securing the nod of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, sources close to the campaign said. (The Clinton team counters that the Feb. 5 caucus states are relatively unimportant, accounting for just 12 percent of the delegates who will be awarded that day.)

To catch the attention of voters who will cast their ballots early, the Obama campaign picked Arizona and California for the airing of its first round of Feb. 5 ads. San Francisco Bay area residents are among the most likely to vote early, and Obama's California ad targets them by addressing his call for alternative energy sources, a major local concern. Obama scored a key Bay Area endorsement, from longtime Rep. George Miller, a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The campaign is also tackling the No. 2 prize of New York by congressional district, seeking to capitalize on a rule that would grant Obama two-fifths of all delegates if he can hit the 31 percent mark in each district. "We don't plan to win New York, but we do plan to take a lot of delegates out of there," Hildebrand said. The Clinton team has the same approach in Illinois. That is why Clinton stopped in St. Louis en route from Las Vegas to New York after winning the Nevada caucuses last weekend, making an appearance that would be seen in crossover media markets in Illinois.


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