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McCain Seeks Spotlight as Democrats Court Pa. Voters

March 31, 2008 at 6:25 PM EST
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Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail in Pennsylvania while presumptive GOP nominee John McCain embarked on his "biography tour" to steer political attention his way. Judy Woodruff reports on the latest news from the campaign trail.
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GWEN IFILL: The three presidential candidates were back on the campaign trail today. Judy Woodruff reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain kicked off a week-long, five-state tour today to reintroduce himself to the voters. The tour opened in Meridian, Miss., where McCain was once a flight instructor at the airfield named for his grandfather.

McCain spoke of his family’s history of military service and its effect on him.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: I’m the son and grandson of admirals. My grandfather was an aviator, my father a submariner. They were my first heroes. And their respect for me has been one of the most lasting ambitions of my life.

They gave their lives to their country and taught me lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership that I didn’t fully grasp until later in life but remembered when I needed them most.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, today was day four of Barack Obama’s Pennsylvania bus tour. Over the weekend, Obama and Sen. Bob Casey watched college basketball at a sports bar in Greensburg, toured Penn State University’s agricultural facility in state college, and went bowling in Altoona.

This morning in Lancaster, Obama said all had gone well, except for the bowling.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: We have stopped by some sports bars, I must admit, and had a few beers.

This is true. I fed a calf with a big bottle, and that went all right. And then we went bowling, which didn’t go so well. There was an 8-year-old who was giving me tips.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton campaigned today in Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg, and sharply criticized the Bush administration’s plans to overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory system.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: Today, the administration, through the secretary of the Treasury, has announced that finally the Bush administration is going to take some action to better regulate the financial markets.

Well, after years of a wait-and-don’t-see approach to the regulatory failures that led to the housing and the credit crises, they’ve announced a plan that comes late and falls short. No amount of rearranging the deck chairs can hide the fact that our housing and credit markets are in crisis.

Addressing calls for Clinton's exit

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton and some of her prominent supporters spent much of the weekend knocking down calls for her to exit the race. The candidate herself had this to say at a diner in Indiana on Saturday.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: There are some people, you see them on TV, saying, "Oh, we should stop this now. We've had enough elections."

AUDIENCE: No!

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: I mean, I don't know where that comes from. I mean, it's March. We've got a lot more contests ahead of us, and Indiana should count.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, former President Bill Clinton weighed in as he addressed the state's Democratic Party convention.

BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: Don't you let anybody tell you that somehow we are weakening the Democratic Party by telling the people in Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, and Indiana, and Kentucky, and West Virginia, and Montana, and South Dakota, and Oregon, and Puerto Rico that they count, too. We are strengthening the Democratic Party.

Chill out. We're going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The talk of whether Clinton should drop out dominated the Sunday morning shows. On ABC's "This Week," Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton backer, argued the race should continue.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), Pennsylvania: Hopefully, the Obama forces will allow all 10 states that remain on the calendar to vote and allow Florida and Michigan to vote. It's a disgrace that the Obama forces say, "Well, he's won the popular vote so he should be the nominee."

There are 10 states left. I think Senator Clinton's going to eat into the popular vote. And I think if Michigan and Florida actually voted again, Senator Clinton would come out on top of the popular vote.

Counting remaining delegates

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama supporter and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry responded that the party would benefit by having a nominee sooner, but he did not directly call on Clinton to withdraw.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), Massachusetts: And I think every day does give John McCain an ability to organize nationally. So the sooner we resolve it, the better, but it has to be resolved, obviously, by letting voters have their say.

Now, in the next days, there are 550 delegates still at stake. There are 10 states that are going to vote. So at some point, there is a moment of judgment. I don't think it's up to our campaign or any individual to tell Hillary Clinton or their campaign when that is.

But there will be, I think, a consensus about it. And I think it's going to occur over these next weeks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Pittsburgh last Friday, Obama himself likened the Democratic primary to a good movie that lasted about a half-an-hour too long. But by Saturday, he was signaling he would give his opponent more space.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants to. Her name is on the ballot.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama and Clinton were also locked in a battle over Texas delegates this weekend based on the state's March 4th caucuses. Obama held a decisive lead, as counting stretched into Monday, a result that could give him the overall lead in Texas delegates, despite Clinton's popular vote win in the state's primary.

GWEN IFILL: You can keep track of specific super delegates and their allegiances on our Vote 2008 Web site at PBS.org.