Last Day of Campaigning for Ind., N.C. Primaries
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A remark about obliterating Iran was just one subject of the presidential campaign as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton approach the next primaries. Indiana and North Carolina vote tomorrow, and the candidates made their closing arguments in many of the same places.
NPR's Don Gonyea has this report.
DON GONYEA: The candidates seemed to be working from the same playbook yesterday, if not the same script. Each started the day on the Sunday talk show circuit. For Hillary Clinton, it was ABC News's George Stephanopoulos, who once worked for her husband. He asked her about her backing of a summertime suspension of the 18 cent a gallon federal gas tax, something Obama opposes.
(Soundbite of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos")
Mr. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (Host): Can you name one economist, a credible economist, who supports this suspension?
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Well, you know, George, I think we've been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven't worked well for the middle class and hardworking Americans.
GONYEA: Senator Clinton's use of the word elite repeats the label she has worked hard to pin on her opponent. Obama, meanwhile, was on NBC's "Meet the Press," where Tim Russert asked about Clinton's statement that she'd obliterate Iran if it launched a nuclear strike against Israel.
(Soundbite of "Meet the Press")
Mr. TIM RUSSERT: Obliterate them. What do you think of that language?
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): 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.
GONYEA: By the afternoon policy arguments took a back seat. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Obama and his wife Michelle hosted an event billed as a family picnic. Michelle Obama introduced their young daughters to the crowd.
Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: So what do we want to ask everybody to do on Tuesday?
Unidentified Child: Vote for daddy.
(Soundbite of cheering)
GONYEA: Not far away, also in Fort Wayne, Senator Clinton gave a pep talk to campaign volunteers getting ready to go knocking on doors.
Sen. CLINTON: This is the final push, and many of you will leave here to go out and canvas for me. And as the signs say up here, Canvas Indiana, Canvassers Rule, and Hillary wins. Walk it to win it - that's what we need for you to do.
GONYEA: Then came last night's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner - a sold out event for the Indiana Democratic Party. The two contenders appeared separately and refrained from direct attacks on one another. Senator Clinton was first.
Sen. CLINTON: And there's on thing you know about me - I am no shrinking violet. And I may stumble, I may get knocked down, but I will always get right back up and I will never quit until the job is finished.
GONYEA: And she looked ahead to what she hopes will be her match-up against Republican John McCain.
Sen. CLINTON: Now, I wish the Republicans would be so embarrassed by the last seven years that they would just hand over the keys to the White House. But unfortunately they're not going to do that. They've chosen a nominee who is offering four more years of the same.
GONYEA: Close to an hour later, Obama did something he's been doing a lot of lately in the wake of the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. That is to remind voters who he is and where he comes from.
Sen. OBAMA: This is the country that made it possible for my mother, a single parent who had to go on food stamps at one point to make sure her children were fed while she was going to school and working at the same time, and allowed her to send my sister and me to the best schools in the world with the help of scholarships.
GONYEA: He then added this...
Sen. OBAMA: I think it's important to understand where I'm coming from. Because politics didn't lead me to working people - working people led me to politics.
(Soundbite of applause)
GONYEA: Obama also went after John McCain, calling him a continuation of the failed policies of the Bush administration. But even as each candidate looked ahead to November, their real focus right now remains one another, with Obama hoping tomorrow's primaries nail down the nomination for him while Senator Clinton hopes for a result that allows her to fight on.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Indianapolis.
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