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Democratic Fight Heads into Critical N.C., Ind. Contests

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made their final pitches to voters in Indiana and North Carolina, looking for support ahead of Tuesday's primary contests. Two correspondents fresh off the campaign trail discuss whether these two states can change the dynamics of the Democratic race.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Another Tuesday, another decision day tomorrow in the Democratic race to the nominating finish line.

    With yet another pair of critical primaries on tap tomorrow, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama competed for last-minute votes today in both Indiana and North Carolina. In the Hoosier State, one new poll gives Clinton a six-point edge, while the latest North Carolina survey has Obama leading by seven percentage points.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), Presidential Candidate: Good to see you, sir.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But both candidates are campaigning as if in a dead heat, focusing largely on a debate over the best way to bring down gas prices.

    SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), Presidential Candidate: Good morning, Pitt County.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In North Carolina today, Clinton pushed her plan to suspend gas taxes for the summer, and tax oil companies instead.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    I'll tell you, right now, I know what these gas prices are doing to people. I know what they're doing to farmers, and truckers, and people who commute long distances, people who live in the country and have to drive just to get nearly anywhere.

    And what I want to do is provide some immediate relief. I want the oil companies to pay the gas tax this summer out of their record profit, because they need to be part of the solution, instead of the problem.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    And that's a difference that I have with both Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Senator Obama doesn't want to do anything. Senator McCain says, OK, fine, take off the gas tax, but don't pay for it.

    No, we can't do that, because that money can't go back into the deficit, making it bigger, or into depriving the Highway Trust Fund of money, so you can't prepare your roads here in North Carolina. So, I think I have got the right approach. Let's listen to what people are telling us. I don't think folks in Washington listen enough.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    How are you?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Obama, leaving an Indiana construction site today, told reporters the tax holiday plan won't work, and that Clinton is pandering to cash-strapped voters.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    You know, about 30 cents per day, $28 dollars, and — but that's only assuming that the oil companies don't raise the prices. And we tried this in Illinois. Back in 2000, I voted for a proposal like this. And, six months later, we chose not to renew it, because we were losing revenue, but the oil companies were gaining revenue. And it wasn't helping consumers. The money wasn't getting there.

    So, we need to be honest with the American people about how we're going to solve these problems. And that's my top priority as president. And that's why we're out here fighting so hard for every vote, because we want to make sure that there is an advocate in Washington who is telling people the truth and fighting for them.

  • QUESTION:

    Do you think the gas tax holiday, is that more of a — are you saying more a gimmick than…

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    It's a stunt. It's what Washington does. This isn't the first time it's proposed. It's proposed every two years. Every time there's an election coming up, right before the summer, somebody proposes this.

    And there is not a single person who — out there who has studied the oil markets who believes that this is actually going solve the problem.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, who has remained mostly on the sidelines during the last several weeks, edged his way back into the gas tax debate at an Arizona news conference.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), Presidential Candidate: Finally, on the now very famous gas tax holiday, again, I find people who are the wealthiest who are most dismissive of a plan to give low-income Americans a little bit of a holiday for three months, so they would have something a little more to give to their children, and enjoy their summer a little more.

    "Thirty dollars?" some say. Thirty dollars means nothing to a lot of economists. I understand that. It means a lot to some low-income Americans.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The two Democrats are fighting to the finish on multiple issues and platforms.

    On Sunday's "Meet the Press," Tim Russert asked Obama about Clinton's comments that the U.S. would totally obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel.

    TIM RUSSERT, Host, "Meet The Press": "Obliterate them," what do you think of that language?

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    Well, it's not the language that we need right now, and I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush, that we have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber-rattling and tough talk. And, in the meantime, we make a series of strategic decisions that actually strengthen Iran.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Clinton, a guest on ABC's "This Week," was asked by host George Stephanopoulos to respond.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, Host, "This Week": He said, "It's not the language we need right now, and I think it's reflective of George W. Bush."

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    Well, the question originally, as some may remember, was, what would we do if Iran got a nuclear weapon and attacked Israel? And I think we have to be very clear about what we would do. I don't think it's time to equivocate about what we would do. They have to know that they would face massive retaliation.