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THE DEMOCRATIC RACE

Michigan Ends Revote Bid

"I'm fishing for a few votes around here," Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) says at Murads' Sports Bar in Charleston, W.Va.
"I'm fishing for a few votes around here," Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) says at Murads' Sports Bar in Charleston, W.Va. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)

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By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008

The effort to schedule a June revote for the Michigan Democratic primary collapsed yesterday, dealing a potentially serious blow to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the White House.

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With Florida Democrats already all but giving up on a new contest, the Michigan state Senate's decision to adjourn yesterday without acting on a new primary left in limbo a Clinton strategy that relied on a string of victories in the remaining contests, to be capped by victories in the Michigan and Florida revotes, to help her gain ground in both the pledged-delegate and popular-vote totals against Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Clinton aides express the hope that a late surge in both categories will help convince the party insiders known as superdelegates that she has the best chance to beat Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, in November.

Without the Michigan and Florida delegates, Clinton's odds grow longer. Both states had defied the Democratic National Committee by moving their primary dates forward and were stripped of their delegates in January.

"We will turn our attention to other options," said Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D), a Clinton supporter who expressed deep disappointment. "There is no road to the White House that does not go through Michigan."

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said, "We are for a resolution that gives Florida and Michigan representation at the convention [and] is fair and reasonable," suggesting that seating the delegates from both states in an even split between the two candidates would be the most acceptable outcome.

The Clinton campaign took the opportunity to slam Obama. "When it comes to the Michigan and Florida primaries, Senator Obama seems to only be capable of saying no: No to honoring the January elections, no to holding a new primary vote, no to a vote by mail," spokesman Phil Singer said in a statement. "It is unacceptable to disenfranchise the voters who participated in January, and if Senator Obama allows that to happen, there will be implications for Democrats in the general election."

Working to move past a racially charged controversy over comments from his former pastor that have dogged his campaign for the past week, Obama barnstormed through West Virginia yesterday, pivoting back to pocketbook concerns and making an economic case for ending the conflict in Iraq. He also made an open appeal to the white working-class voters who have been the mainstay of Clinton's coalition, talking basketball and eating chicken wings in a Charleston sports bar, and taking questions at a town-hall meeting in hardscrabble Beckley.

"I'm fishing for a few votes around here. At least, I can show off my basketball knowledge," Obama told the customers who had gathered to watch the NCAA tournament's opening games at Murad's.

His morning address, at the University of Charleston, took far more shots at McCain than at Clinton (N.Y.), as he continued a two-front war with an eye on the general election.

"We know what this war has cost us -- in blood and in treasure," Obama said. "But in the words of Robert Kennedy, 'past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation.' . . . John McCain is refusing to learn from the failures of the past. Instead of offering an exit strategy for Iraq , he's offering us a 100-year occupation. Instead of offering an economic plan that works for working Americans, he's supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest among us who don't need them and aren't asking for them."

McCain's campaign fired right back, denouncing Obama's "tired tax-and-spend ideas of the past."

"Today Senator Obama once again displayed how fundamentally wrong he is on the central issues facing America's future: our economy and national security," McCain spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said.


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