Clinton dashes to woo voters in the Mid-west

Hillary Clinton dashed to Missouri yesterday to appeal for support from Mid-western voters being wooed with equal ferocity by Barack Obama, her remaining rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mrs Clinton offered her populist pitch at a meeting held in a machinists' union building near St Louis. "I see an America where government doesn't tilt to the wealthy and to the well-connected," she said, to applause from a crowd of a few hundred.

Touting her track record in Washington over Mr Obama's relative inexperience, she added: "I have been through it, not only survived but thrived."

However, her small audiences here and at other campaign stops ahead of the "Super Tuesday" primaries and caucuses in 24 states tomorrow pale next to the roaring throngs that Mr Obama draws everywhere. On Saturday night, more than 20,000 voters packed the St Louis Convention Centre to hear him speak.

His campaign received an invaluable – and highly unusual – boost in its bid for an against-the-odds victory in California with the endorsement of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver.

Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan and a registered Democrat, stunned supporters at a celebrity Obama rally at the University of California in Los Angeles yesterday, saying there was nowhere she would rather be. It is unheard of for political wives to go against their husbands. Mr Schwarzenegger had just endorsed John McCain.

Mr Obama is striving to reach as many people as possible before tomorrow's voting and there are signs he may be closing the gap. Startling new polling data showed him pulling ahead of Mrs Clinton in California and tied with her in the key states of New Jersey and Missouri.

The former first lady, of course, is deeply familiar to most Americans and polls show she's still ahead in most regions.

The campaign rhythm was interrupted last night as more than half the US population settled down to watch the Super Bowl American football game. Mrs Clinton did not miss the opportunity to link the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday. "I want both New York teams to win," she said, siding in the football game with the New York Giants.

Questions to Mrs Clinton can get feisty. "Bush, the bastard," one woman began, accusing George Bush of having signed a deal to make Canada, the US and Mexico one nation. Mrs Clinton reassured her that that would not happen. "If there is such an agreement, it will be gone in a bird-dog minute when I am in the White House," she vowed.

Many eyes this week will be on Missouri, a bellwether state where Mrs Clinton has a slight lead. In previous campaigns, Missourians backed the person who went on to win the White House in every election in the 20th century, except in 1956 when they backed the Democrat Adlai Stevenson over the Republican incumbent, Dwight Eisenhower.

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