Democrats Prep for S.C. Vote With Eye on Feb. 5

Obama camped out for the week in South Carolina where he enjoys a comfortable poll lead of 43 percent over Clinton’s 25 percent, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released Wednesday. Former Sen. John Edwards trails with 15 percent.

South Carolina is a must-win state for Obama to regain momentum after he came up short in New Hampshire and Nevada. It will also be the year’s first test of the black vote, as more than half the state’s population is African-American.

The Clinton campaign has taken a different tactic, looking past South Carolina to the 22-state Feb. 5 contest and beyond. Clinton campaigned Wednesday in Pennsylvania–where she picked up an endorsement from Gov. Ed Rendel– and New Jersey, after a 20-hour blitz through California and Arizona on Tuesday.

While describing Obama and Edwards, as “fine” candidates, Rendell said Clinton was the best suited to run the country from the first day in office, the New York Times reported.

Obama holds the lead in South Carolina polls, but the numbers tell a different story in New Jersey. A new Quinnipiac University poll in the Garden State shows Clinton ahead of Obama 49 to 32 percent, with Edwards picking up 10 percent, and 7 percent still undecided.

Edwards has been stumping in South Carolina, a state he won in 2004, emphasizing his biography as a native of the state and the child of a blue-collar family.

He also took a jab at Clinton for leaving the state to campaign elsewhere.

“After the debate she flew out and she’s been gone and she won’t be back until I don’t know – later in the week or until primary day,” Edwards told a crowd in Bennettsville, S.C. “What are the chances she’s coming back when she’s president of the United States?”

Former President Bill Clinton has stayed back in South Carolina to campaign on Sen. Clinton’s behalf until she returns to the state Thursday. President Clinton and his increasingly prominent political attacks were the subject of remarks made by Obama Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today Show.”

“I think, in the Clinton campaign, they have had former President Clinton delivering a bunch of inaccurate statements about my record. So, naturally, I’ve got to make sure that those are corrected,” he said.

For her part, Clinton defended her husband’s criticism of Obama and predicted that tensions would diminish once a nominee was selected.

“We’re going to have a vigorous contest and then we’ll have a unified Democratic Party,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “Each of us has to present our case and draw contrasts.”

The war of words that emerged between Obama and Clinton during the South Carolina debate earlier this week has continued to flare on the campaign trail.

On Tuesday, Clinton accused Obama of making preplanned attacks on her during the debate to hide flaws in his record. A memo released by the campaign Tuesday reinforced that message.

“While much of this campaign has focused on Senator Obama’s rhetoric, there has not been much attention paid to Senator Obama’s record,” the memo read, according to Agence France-Presse.

Obama had similar sentiments for Clinton at a rally Wednesday when he criticized her contradictory statements over a Senate vote on a 2001 bankruptcy bill. “Senator Clinton said, ‘Well, I voted for it, but I hoped the bill would die,'” he said to laughter from the audience.

All the candidates turned a particular focus on economics this week, amid President Bush’s proposal for an economic stimulus bill and turmoil in the financial markets.

Edwards criticized Bush’s economic plan Tuesday during a campaign appearance, telling voters his own stimulus proposal would add $1.5 billion to $2 billion for South Carolina.

“You watch what George Bush does. He just waits and waits and waits, and then by the time the water’s coming in like a flood, he responds, which is exactly what he’s done about the economy,” Edwards said, according to the AP.

During a Tuesday press conference, Clinton called for a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures. “The one area that I still hear nothing about from the White House of any significance is what will be done to deal with the mortgage crisis,” she said.

In an interview with National Public Radio on Wednesday, Obama said “we’ve got to get money into the pockets of Americans right away to shore up consumer spending…the best way to do that is to provide tax rebates or supplements to Social Security that move out rapidly.”

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