By Tim Craig and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama battled for support from both sides of the Potomac River yesterday as the Democratic candidates for president started shifting their focus to the Feb. 12 primaries in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
With polls indicating that neither Clinton nor Obama will emerge as the clear winner of Super Tuesday today, they are turning their attention to next Tuesday, when 238 delegates in Maryland, Virginia and the District will be at stake.
The Clinton and Obama campaigns opened offices, announced endorsements and staff and began planning appearances.
Because of high concentrations of African American and well-educated voters, many political strategists say Obama (D-Ill.) could have an early advantage in all three states, but Clinton strategists say the New York Democrat will campaign hard across the region. Clinton strategists are especially optimistic about their chances in Virginia, where her campaign dispatched several operatives experienced in state elections.
"We believe we can do very well" in Virginia, Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said.
Clinton is planning to hold a rally tomorrow in Northern Virginia, though a location has not been determined. Yesterday, the Clinton campaign unveiled a list of 100 Democratic advocates from across Virginia who will serve on her state campaign steering committee.
Obama was endorsed by nearly half the Democrats in the Virginia Senate, including one who had previously backed Clinton and several who had supported former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), who ended his campaign last week.
In Maryland, Obama supporters opened a headquarters in vote-rich Prince George's County. The campaign also launched Maryland Latinos for Obama yesterday, hoping to build support among the state's 337,000 Hispanics. Four prominent Latino politicians from Prince George's are helping to lead the effort.
"Latinos in Maryland and across the country see in Barack Obama a candidate that can unite Americans and bring people together to address our country's challenges," Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D) said.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Baltimore) rallied some Obama supporters in Annapolis last night, saying his bid is not just "a campaign for the president of the United States.
"It's bigger than you," Cummings said. "This is a movement for the future of America."
In Virginia, Clinton's steering committee includes advocates from every region of the state, including former attorney general Mary Sue Terry and Dels. Adam P. Ebbin and Albert C. Eisenberg, who represent parts of Arlington County.
Some of Clinton's top advisers are also heading up her campaign effort in Virginia, including Mike Henry, her deputy manager. Henry managed Democrat Timothy M. Kaine's 2005 successful bid for governor. Her advisers believe they will do well in Northern Virginia, where a third of the state's Democratic voters live, and among working-class voters in Hampton Roads and southern and southwestern Virginia.
"We have someone in Senator Clinton who is a steady, proven leader," said Susan Swecker, a supporter and chairman of the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus.
Obama, who has been endorsed by Kaine and Reps. Robert C. Scott and Rick Boucher, picked up support yesterday in Richmond from 10 of the 21 Democratic members of the state Senate. They include Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (Richmond), a veteran of Virginia's civil rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s.
"I've been involved with presidential elections since 1960, with John Kennedy," Marsh said. "Something is happening this year that has never occurred before. You can see it in the size of the crowds. . . . The key word is 'change.' What this nation needs right now is change. His campaign is based on change."
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, an African American from Portsmouth, also endorsed Obama, even though she had been a Clinton supporter: "This election is too important. It is not enough to change the party in power in Washington. We've also got to change the status quo."
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who backs Obama, planned to campaign for him today in Newark.
In Prince George's, Obama supporters celebrated the official opening of a campaign office in Largo last night, part of an effort to rev up supporters in the nation's wealthiest majority-black jurisdiction. On Saturday, County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said he was aligning with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to back Clinton.
Obama's supporters, who canvassed door-to-door in the county that day, said they think the majority of Prince George's voters will reject Johnson's endorsement and turn out in potentially record numbers to support the man who could be the first black U.S. president.
African Americans account for about 29 percent of Maryland's population, and about one-third of the state's 1.6 million black residents live in Prince George's.
"Prince George's is enormously significant in Maryland politics," said Comptroller Peter Franchot, an Obama supporter who attended the campaign office opening. "It's a Democratic stronghold, and that's why we're placing a lot of emphasis on it from the Obama campaign." The campaign also has offices in Bowie and Silver Spring. Franchot said Maryland offices will be staffed with volunteers and paid workers dispatched by the national office.
Staff writer David Nakamura contributed to this report.