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By Jim Malone
Washington
22 February 2008

Democratic presidential rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are focusing their efforts on the large, delegate-rich states of Texas and Ohio over the next several days.  Obama and Clinton are headed for what could be a decisive showdown for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4.  VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the U.S. presidential campaign from Washington.    

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama makes remarks during a fund raiser in Austin, Texas, 21 Feb 2008
Barack Obama speaks during a fundraiser in Austin, Texas, 21 Feb 2008
The two remaining Democratic contenders are coming off their latest debate in Texas where clashes over issues and style were few and far between.

Clinton desperately needs to stop Obama's momentum after losing 11 straight contests since February 5.

As she did in the latest debate, Clinton will continue to focus on Obama as a gifted orator who is short on experience.

"Words are important and words matter, but actions speak louder than words," she said.

Senators Obama (left) and Clinton at debate in Texas, 21 Feb. 2008
Senators Obama (left) and Clinton at debate in Texas, 21 Feb. 2008
Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004, but counters that he has had plenty of experience helping people as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer.

"Actions do speak louder than words, which is why over the 20 years of my public service I have acted a lot to provide health care to people who did not have it," he said.

By most estimates, Obama has a lead in pledged delegates of about 100, though he is still well short of the 2025 needed to claim the Democratic nomination.

Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters as she makes a campaign stop for an early voter event in Dallas, 22 Feb 2008
Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters as she makes a campaign stop for an early voter event in Dallas, 22 Feb 2008
Clinton hopes to reverse his momentum with victories in Texas and Ohio on March 4 and in Pennsylvania on April 22.  But Clinton must win all three contests by large margins in order to win enough delegates to move ahead of Obama.

The latest polls show Obama and Clinton are tied in Texas, while Clinton has a seven point lead over Obama in Ohio.

In the Republican race, frontrunner John McCain sought to refocus his campaign on the economy and the war in Iraq one day after fending off allegations contained in a New York Times story.

McCain denied a New York Times report Thursday that he had an improper relationship with a woman lobbyist while he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee back in 1999.

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, accompanied by his wife Cindy, responds to allegations by the 'New York Times' of impropriety with a female lobbyist in Toledo, Ohio, 21 Feb 2008
John McCain, accompanied by his wife Cindy, responds to allegations by the New York Times of impropriety with a female lobbyist in Toledo, Ohio, 21 Feb 2008
McCain told reporters in Indianapolis Friday that he is through talking about the Times story.

"I had a press conference yesterday morning and I answered every question," he said.  "I am moving on.  I am talking about the issues and challenges of America, and the big issues that Americans are concerned about."

McCain got some support from the Bush White House Friday.  Deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel told reporters that Republicans have become used to the New York Times dropping what he called a bombshell on the Republican Party nominee during a presidential campaign.

The New York Times has defended the story saying it was carefully researched over a period of months.

McCain is looking to pick up more delegates in Texas and Ohio on March 4 and move closer to wrapping up the Republican nomination against his main remaining challenger, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

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