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West Virginia Democrats Prepare For Tuesday Vote

May 12, 2008 at 6:35 PM EDT
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has campaigned hard in West Virginia in anticipation of that state's Tuesday primary, while front-runner Barack Obama has shifted focus to the larger Kentucky and Oregon contests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All signs point to a big victory for Hillary Clinton in tomorrow’s West Virginia primary. One new poll shows her holding a 36-point lead over Barack Obama in the Mountain State.

Clinton began her day greeting diners at Biscuit World in Charleston and followed that with a rally in rural Logan. She told the crowd there that they could send a message with their vote tomorrow.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: Well, West Virginia has a history of picking them. And, in fact, I think it is the fact, too, that no Democrat gets elected president for nearly 100 years unless they carry West Virginia in the fall.

So West Virginia is a real indicator of which way the political winds are going to blow come the November election.

And this election we’ve had, this primary contest has been close and exciting, the closest one anybody can remember. But the goal is to nominate someone who can beat John McCain in November, and that’s what we’ve got to do.

Clinton pushing gas tax holiday

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton also returned to the idea of a summer suspension of the federal tax on gasoline, something she promoted heavily ahead of last week's contest in Indiana and North Carolina.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Finally, I want to give you a gas tax holiday and have the oil companies pay the gas tax this summer out of their record profits.

That would, on average in America, save you $70. Now, if you drive more than that, it's going to save you more. If you're a trucker or you use your car or your truck for business, it's going to save you more.

Now, my opponent, Senator Obama, says, well, now, that's just a gimmick. We don't want to try to get a gas tax holiday and pay for it out of the oil company profits. And my opponent, Senator McCain, says, well, let's have a gas tax holiday, but don't pay for it, just add to the deficit.

I don't think either of those is the right position.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama campaigned in Charleston this afternoon with home state Senator Jay Rockefeller and talked about his plans to improve veterans' care and benefits. But Obama also conceded that the odds of a win here tomorrow are against him.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me.

I'm grateful. I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton. This is true.

Obama strongly endorses GI bill

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Obama looked ahead to a possible general election match-up with John McCain, criticizing the presumptive Republican nominee for wanting to scale back on a plan to give veterans additional educational assistance.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: There is no reason we shouldn't pass the 21st-century G.I. bill that is currently being debated in Congress. It was introduced by my friend, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, a Marine who served as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan.

His plan has widespread support from Republicans and Democrats. It would provide every returning veteran with a real chance to afford a college education, because right now the G.I. Bill that is offered is inadequate to help veterans pay for their college education, and it would do no harm to retention.

Now, I have great respect for John McCain's service to this country. I know he loves it dearly and honors those who serve. But John McCain is one of the few senators of either party who opposed this bill because he thinks it's too generous. He thinks it's too generous.

Now, I could not disagree with him more. At a time when the skyrocketing costs of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue their American dream.

McCain discussing green energy

JUDY WOODRUFF: Over the weekend, Obama moved ahead of Clinton in the super-delegate count and picked up four more today, Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka and Maine Congressman Tom Allen, among them.

According to the Associated Press, Obama's overall delegate lead is 172.

Meanwhile, John McCain toured a wind turbine manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Later, he unveiled plans for dealing with climate change, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction, toward machines, methods and industries that used oil and gas.

Enormous good came from that industrial growth. And we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built.

But there were costs that we weren't counting, and often hardly noticed, and these terrible costs have added up, now in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and all across the natural world.

There are no longer terrible, sustainable or defensible. They are not sustainable or defensible or tenable. And what better way to correct past errors than to turn the creative energies of the free market in the other direction?

Under the cap-and-trade system, this can happen. In all its power, the profit motive will suddenly begin to shift and point the other way toward cleaner fuels, wiser ways, and a healthier planet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain will overnight in the Northwest and campaign in Washington state tomorrow. Barack Obama will hold events in Kentucky and Missouri, while Hillary Clinton is already planning a victory celebration in West Virginia tomorrow night.