Election 2008


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Neither of the Democratic presidential candidates is likely to clinch the nomination in the primaries that remain. But both know the voting could affect the outcome, and tomorrow Mississippi gets its chance to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Even if you think you've already heard enough about the candidates, Mississippi voters are still eager to learn more as a big decision bears down.

NPR's Audie Cornish has been listening to the voters and the ads that target them.

AUDIE CORNISH: Barack Obama is now on a one-state winning streak, and he would love to increase it to two with a victory tomorrow in Mississippi. Polls show him with a clear lead. But with delegates now the name of the game, the Clinton campaign is running ads here, touting its victories last week and instilling doubts about Obama.

(Soundbite of TV ad)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They said she couldn't do it. They counted her out. But Hillary Clinton fought back, and she won big. Maybe that's why Barack Obama is running false attack ads against her now.

CORNISH: Clinton hit the ground running with a two-day swing through the state before heading out west to campaign in Wyoming, leaving a familiar figure behind to help make her case.

Former President BILL CLINTON: She's change you can rely on. This idea that there's a conflict between experience and change is just bull.

CORNISH: Through fish fries and town hall meetings, former President Bill Clinton stuck to the campaign's essential script: Hillary has the experience; Obama does not. But in a state that has a sizable African-American population, it would be fair to say that some voters could see things in black and white.

Professor JOHN BRUCE (Political Science, University of Mississippi): The point about Mississippi that people don't sometimes appreciate is how much race is still salient.

CORNISH: University of Mississippi political science professor John Bruce says Obama's candidacy has drawn many black voters to his side. His candidacy may also be affecting the way some whites are planning to vote as well.

Prof. BRUCE: It's huge in both ways. It's a huge motivating factor for some African-American voters; it's a motivating factor for some whites - but perhaps in the other way.

CORNISH: In addition, the feeling was always that the battle for the nomination would have been over long before it reached Mississippi, and many voters here don't know much about who Obama is. At a Bill Clinton event in Meridian Saturday, voters Laura Walley and Rebecca Pitts said they find the Illinois senator lacking.

Ms. LAURA WALLEY (Mississippi Voter): Obama's really a good candidate, but he hasn't shown me any clarification of any of the vital issues. I just really don't know where he is coming from.

Ms. REBECCA PITTS (Mississippi Voter): It's not because she's a woman or anything like that. It's just I never heard of this man until now, and this lady here, the truth of it is - and I might get in trouble - but she run the country once before, and she could probably do it again.

CORNISH: But 90 miles west in Jackson, the state capital, it's a different story.

Mr. WILLIE BLUE (Reverend): If Obama won the Democratic nomination, it's a no contest. So that's why I think she should fold her tent and agree to be the vice president and let's get on with it.

CORNISH: That's Reverend Willie Blue, a civil rights activist from Tallahatchie County. Blue was among a group of black voters who gathered with us on the Jackson State University campus.

Isaiah Madison, a JSU professor, says that while he and others were disappointed that Obama may have lost some of his momentum, they remain confident in his potential.

Professor ISAIAH MADISON (Jackson State University): Look at his campaign and look at her campaign. This man is a leader, and he doesn't have to do everything. He doesn't have to micromanage. He is able to generate in people a profound sense of commitment to the common cause.

CORNISH: Many voters I spoke to here remain dismayed at what they called dishonest and hurtful statements the Clintons have made about Obama. And the thought of Hillary Clinton, who is currently trailing Obama in delegates, offering the vice presidential nomination to Obama is preposterous, according to voters Edna Harris and Demetrius Dixon.

Ms. EDNA HARRIS (Mississippi Voter): I don't think that that would work because they already slinging mud. You know, how can they trust each other? How can they work together?

Ms. DEMETRIUS DIXON (Mississippi Voter): I think she only did that in order to win more people over. I don't think it was genuine. And I really don't think she would honor it if it happened.

CORNISH: Of course, as the candidates have said themselves, there has to be a nominee before there is a ticket. And before there is a nominee, there is the Mississippi primary and its 33 pledged delegates at stake.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, Jackson.

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