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US Voters Head to Polls in Wisconsin Primary


Voters in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin are at the polls in that state's primary. The main contest is on the Democratic Party side, where New York Senator Hillary Clinton has worked hard for a much-needed victory to slow the momentum of Illinois Senator Barack Obama. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

As the race went down to the wire in Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton's campaign was accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism for his use of phrases similar to those used previously in a speech by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Obama responded by saying that he and Patrick are friends and that they often share ideas and rhetorical flourishes. Although most independent pundits viewed the charge of plagiarism as exaggerated, they did see possible damage to Obama's image in the eyes of the voters, because his soaring oratory has been his strongest asset.

In her campaign speeches, Hillary Clinton has been stressing the word "solutions." Clinton has said, in effect, that Obama speaks well, but that she offers real solutions to the problems that afflict the nation.

In her campaign appearances across the state, Clinton has focused on the economy and her plans to promote job growth.

"What we really need here in Wisconsin and across America is an economy that is producing good jobs with rising wages for everybody who is willing to work hard and I have been focused on the economy throughout this campaign," she said.

Obama brushes aside the notion that his rhetoric is insubstantial. He says he would inspire people to come together to solve problems.

"The most important thing we can do right now is re-engage the American people in the process of governance, to get them excited and interested again in what works and what can work in our government," he said.

On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain has a clear lead nationwide and no one expects his chief rival, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, to win the nomination, no matter how well he does in Wisconsin. But Huckabee has refused to quit, arguing that voters have a right to make a choice based on their own beliefs and principles, not on what party leaders say.

"What we need to do is make sure that the people of Wisconsin recognize that they are going out and voting their own conscience, not doing what maybe someone in Washington tells them to do and not doing what the establishment tells them," he said. "This vote is about the future of the Republican Party."

Huckabee says he represents conservatives who care about such issues as abortion, illegal immigration, and reduced taxes.

McCain has broad appeal, which could prove important in November's general election in a state such as Wisconsin, which has been a battleground in past elections. But many conservatives in his party object to more liberal positions he has taken on such issues as taxes and immigration.

Also in the Republican race is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has had to reduce his presidential campaigning in recent days in order to concentrate on defending his congressional seat back home. He now has a strong rival for the Republican congressional nomination and has cut back his national campaign schedule.

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