Clinton, Obama Supporters Muster Forces at Local Rallies

The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates make a final appeal to voters before the "Potomac Primaries" of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. on Feb. 12, 2008.
By John Wagner and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 9, 2008

Supporters of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama staged dueling rallies in Maryland yesterday in advance of highly anticipated visits by the Democratic presidential hopefuls themselves.

In a burst of activity before Tuesday's primaries in Maryland, Virginia and the District, the Clinton campaign also unveiled its first TV ads in the region, and the Democratic candidates announced a spate of upcoming appearances by candidates and their surrogates. Republicans John McCain, the Arizona senator, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, also scheduled campaign stops in the region.

"We have a lot of work to do, and we have to do it in a short period of time," Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) told a crowd of about 200 at a Clinton rally outside the State House in Annapolis that included Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, and brother, Hugh Rodham.

Other speakers at the Women's Rally for Our Next President included Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and former lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D).

About two dozen Obama boosters, meanwhile, gathered at an American Legion post in Silver Spring, where Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) and other Veterans for Obama argued that the freshman senator from Illinois offered better solutions to the Iraq war and treatment of veterans than Clinton or McCain, the GOP front-runner.

Actor Kal Penn, known for his roles in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" and the TV medical drama "House," also made a string of appearances for Obama yesterday, seeking to rally the youth vote in Maryland. Penn had stops scheduled at Towson and John Hopkins universities and the University of Maryland at College Park. He will appear today at George Mason University.

With the Clinton campaign playing down expectations in Maryland, the state has not received as much attention in recent days from the Democratic campaigns as Virginia has.

Mikulski told reporters yesterday that the Clinton camp remains optimistic about its prospects in Maryland and "is leaving no county uncontested." But she acknowledged that Prince George's County, one of the most affluent majority-African American jurisdictions in the country, presents a challenge in a campaign against Obama.

In Virginia, the Clinton campaign organized a conference call with reporters to criticize Obama for not agreeing to a televised debate Monday. Clinton will appear on the ABC 7/Politico Candidate Forum, giving her a half-hour of free airtime on the eve of the election.

"What is he scared of?" asked Del. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake).

"We have had 18 debates in multiple forums. We had one just last week, and we have agreed to two more debates, but the bottom line is we are not going to let the Clinton campaign dictate our schedule," said Kevin Griffis, an Obama spokesman.

Although Obama ads have been on the air for several days in Virginia and Maryland, the Clinton campaign launched two 30-second TV spots yesterday in both states.

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