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Clinton Focuses on West Virginia Primary; Obama Focuses on Republican Rival, McCain

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is campaigning hard in West Virginia, ahead of a primary in the state Tuesday, which she is predicted to win by a large margin. But her Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama, is shifting his focus to the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, and the general election in November. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Several recent opinion polls show Senator Clinton leading Senator Obama in the rural, mountainous state of West Virginia by close to 40 percentage points. Demographically, the state plays to Clinton's strengths, with a majority of white, working class voters.

The 60-year-old former First Lady is facing an uphill battle for the nomination. But Senator Clinton, famous for her trademark colorful pantsuits, shared a letter from a supporter, encouraging her not to give up.

"My favorite message was from a woman named Angela," said Hillary Clinton. "Keep strong, she said, it is not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is."

Her campaign has acknowledged that it is now $20 million in debt, while denying rumors that she is staying in the race to pursue a bid on the Democratic ticket with Senator Obama as his vice presidential running mate.

Obama has now surpassed Senator Clinton in the race for superdelegates, party officials and elected office holders who can vote as they please at the Democratic Party convention in August. He now has a commanding lead in the number of pledged delegates, and leads in the popular vote and among superdelegates.

Obama did go to West Virginia Monday, but has not pushed hard in the state, which only has 28 pledged delegates and is not likely to have a big impact on the overall delegate count.

Obama's campaign announced Monday that the 46-year-old will visit Michigan and Florida within the next two weeks, in a effort to win over voters in two states which have been stripped of their delegates by the Democratic Party for holding their primaries earlier than scheduled. A spokesman for the campaign says the two states will be part of a tour of five key battleground states for the general election, adding that Senator McCain has gone unchallenged for far too long.

Meanwhile, former Republican congressman Bob Barr launched a third-party bid for president Monday, saying voters tell him they want a better alternative to the candidates now in the race.

"They believe that America has more and better to offer than what the current political situation is serving up to us," Barr said.

Barr must first win the Libertarian nomination at the party's national convention later this month. He quit the Republican Party two years ago, saying he was disappointed with the party's failure to cut government spending and its willingness to violate civil liberties in the fight against terrorism. His candidacy could possibly peel a limited number of votes away from Senator McCain, as Ralph Nader, running as an independent, could take a small number of votes away from the Democratic nominee.