By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Saturday, February 16, 2008; 11:29 PM
KENOSHA, Wisc. -- Hillary Rodham Clinton renewed her call Saturday to debate Democratic rival Barack Obama in Wisconsin before Tuesday's primary, even as she acknowledged she would cease campaigning in the state a full day before voters go to the polls.
"This is what happens when you've got the kind of schedules that we're all trying to keep up with," she said. "I care deeply about what happens here in this election."
Clinton advisers have downplayed Clinton's chances in Wisconsin even as polling indicates the race could be close here. While the state is home to many liberal, college-educated Democrats who have typically favored Obama, it also boasts a large population of white working-class voters who form the core of Clinton's electoral base.
Obama, a senator from neighboring Illinois, has spent the better part of the week campaigning here while Clinton has focused on Ohio and Texas, both of which hold primaries March 4. The New York senator is counting on those states to pull her out of a skid that has seen her lose eight straight contests to Obama _ many by lopsided margins.
"The best way we could have met the people is through a debate that is televised and everyone could have watched and drawn their own conclusions," Clinton said when asked why she had limited her campaign appearances in Wisconsin.
Since falling behind Obama in contests won and in the delegate count, the former first lady has pressed hard for more debates and has criticized Obama in campaign commercials for refusing to debate in Wisconsin. The Obama campaign responded in kind, noting that the candidates have debated 18 times since the campaign began.
The two candidates are scheduled to debate in Ohio and Texas in the next two weeks.
Clinton told an audience she supported gun rights, two days after a student opened fire on the campus of Northern Illinois University, killing five before turning the gun on himself. Clinton said she believed in getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill even as she favored protecting the rights of law abiding gun owners.
"I've gone hunting," she said. "I know you may not believe it, but it's true. My father taught us to shoot."
Clinton told reporters later she had once shot a duck in Arkansas, along with "a lot of tin cans, targets and some skeet."