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Obama And Clinton Campaign in Key Primaries in Indiana and North Carolina

Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are making a final push for support on the eve of Tuesday's primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the U.S. presidential campaign from Washington.

Both candidates have a lot at stake in Tuesday's primaries.

Senator Clinton hopes to keep alive her underdog hopes of winning the Democratic nomination by extending her momentum after convincing victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Obama seeks to recapture some momentum of his own after weeks of being on the defensive over his relationship with his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Clinton told a crowd in North Carolina that her political experience gives her an advantage over Obama on the issue of which candidate is best prepared to assume the presidency on day one.

"You know, the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief when that moving van pulls out from behind the White House and is heading back to Texas," she said. "But then, I want you to think about what the next president will be confronting."

"Two wars, a war to end in Iraq, and bring our troops home and a war to win in Afghanistan and go after those who attacked our country. An economy in crisis with gas prices exploding," she continued.

Obama told television interviewers he remains confident that he will emerge as the Democratic Party nominee for president, once the primary and caucus voting ends on June 3.

Obama holds a narrow, but difficult to overcome lead in the delegate count and has tried to refocus his campaign on economic issues in recent days and away from the controversy involving Reverend Wright.

Obama spoke on MSNBC television.

"You know, everybody goes through their turns of getting whacked around a little bit in the press, and certainly we have had our turns lately," he said. "But what I have seen is that the American people are looking for somebody who is really going to fight for them, who can make sure they can live out their hopes and their dreams."

New public-opinion polls give a mixed picture of the impact of the Wright controversy on the Obama campaign.

The USA Today Gallup Poll showed the Wright issue has helped Clinton move to a lead over Obama among Democrats nationwide by a margin of 51 to 44 percent.

But a new CBS News New York Times Poll suggested Obama was having some success in moving past the Wright controversy. Sixty percent of people surveyed in that poll approved of Obama's handling of the issue.

Meanwhile, the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, is vowing that he will not make Obama's ties with Reverend Wright an issue in the general election campaign if Obama is the Democratic nominee.

McCain spoke at a news conference in Arizona.

"Senator Obama has said that it is a legitimate political issue in his campaign," he said. "He will respond to that, not me. Do I believe that Reverend Wright's comments were outrageous? Of course, so do all Americans. But it will be a discussion that Senator Obama will have with the American people."

McCain has the luxury of focusing on uniting his party and raising money while the Democratic race continues indefinitely.

Some political experts believe that many of the prominent Democrats who remain uncommitted in the Obama-Clinton battle will rally to Obama once the primaries end in early June.

Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News says many of the so-called congressional superdelegates believe Senator Obama would be more helpful to their own re-election prospects in the November election than Hillary Clinton.

DeFrank appeared on VOA's Issues in the News program.

"There is a feeling that Obama has generated such enthusiasm, and so many new voters have registered as Democrats that many members of Congress running for re-election feel like Obama probably is a safer bet at the top of the ticket than Hillary," he said.

Recent polls give Clinton a slight edge in Indiana, while Obama remains favored in North Carolina.