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DEMOCRATS IN THE POLLS

Clinton Has Edge in Ohio; Race in Texas Deadlocked

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Barack Obama is drawing huge Texan crowds while Hillary Clinton tries to stop his momentum. Bill Clinton says Hillary needs wins in Texas and Ohio to be the Democratic nominee. Jim Axelrod reports. Video by CBSNEWS.com

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By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 22, 2008

AUSTIN, Feb. 21 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, facing a pair of big Democratic primary tests on March 4 that could determine the fate of her presidential candidacy, is deadlocked with Sen. Barack Obama here in Texas and holds a slender lead over him in Ohio, according to two new Washington Post-ABC News polls.

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The closeness of the races in Texas and Ohio underscores the challenges facing Clinton over the next 12 days of campaigning as she seeks to end Obama's double-digit winning streak in their battle for the Democratic nomination. Those victories have given Obama a lead in delegates to the national convention and have put Clinton's candidacy at risk unless she can rack up a string of big victories of her own.

In Ohio, Clinton leads Obama in the new poll by 50 percent to 43 percent, a significant but tenuous advantage given the shifts that have taken place in advance of previous primaries as candidates intensified their campaigns. In Texas, the race is about even, with Clinton at 48 percent and Obama at 47 percent.

In recent contests in Virginia and Wisconsin, Obama cut into Clinton's coalition, a potentially significant change in the Democratic race. At this point in Ohio and Texas, Clinton is doing better than she did in those states among her more reliable voters, but she has yet to make deep inroads into Obama's core supporters.

The Post-ABC News polls show Clinton with solid support from white women, seniors, voters with less education and those with lower incomes in both Ohio and Texas. She holds a big lead among Hispanics in Texas. Obama has large advantages among independents, African Americans and better-educated voters in both states.

Clinton advisers have expressed optimism about her prospects in the two contests, but the new polls suggest that the momentum Obama achieved in his string of victories has turned both into true battlegrounds. Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, said this week that she must win Texas and Ohio to keep her candidacy viable.

In Ohio, the economy and health care are roughly tied for the top spot on voters' agendas, while in Texas health care is the clear No. 1 concern, followed by the economy and Iraq. In Ohio, the war in Iraq also comes in third place, but far below the other two; just 9 percent of voters there called it their most important voting issue.

Obama and Clinton supporters in both states are highly enthusiastic about the candidates, and more than seven in 10 said they definitely will stick with the candidate they have embraced. But that leaves a sizable number of likely voters in both states either undecided or open to changing their minds between now and primary day.

The Democratic electorates in the two states hold both candidates in high regard, with more than seven in 10 saying they would be satisfied with Obama or Clinton as their party's nominee in November. More than six in 10 said they believe either candidate could defeat Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the general election, although when they were asked who has the better chance, Obama came out ahead by 11 percentage points in both Ohio and Texas.

Democratic voters in both states are split evenly on the attributes they are looking for in a nominee -- strength and experience, which have been Clinton's calling card, or fresh ideas and a new direction, which embody Obama's message. Almost eight in 10 Democratic voters favoring strength and experience in a candidate back Clinton, and roughly the same proportion of those seeking change opt for Obama.

Most in both states view Clinton as the stronger leader, but majorities in Ohio and Texas said Obama has the experience to serve effectively as president. About four in 10 said Obama does not have the necessary r¿sum¿.

Obama holds only narrow edges in both states on the question of who "would do the most to bring needed change to Washington," and about seven in 10 said Clinton would do enough to set a new course.


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