(AFP) - White House hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama seem to be already
looking beyond their party primaries to the November elections, stepping up
attacks in a sign of the possible bitter duel to come.
Even though the Republicans and the Democrats have yet to crown their
nominee, both sides seem to have already decided who their candidate will be
taking on in the race for the presidency.
"If you don't think John McCain is just as dangerous in the White House as
George W. Bush, think again," warned the Democratic Party Thursday as it
launched a fund-raising appeal.
McCain's team meanwhile have been playing on the Arizona senator's decades of
political experience against newcomer Illinois Senator Obama, with just two
years under his belt in the Senate.
"Obama does not have the experience to serve our nation as commander in
chief," said Republican Party chairman Mike Duncan.
And as the candidates step up their efforts on the campaign trail ahead of
the next key date of March 4 when delegate-rich Texas and Ohio will hold
nominating contests, they appear increasingly to have designated who they will
have to fight for the keys to the White House.
"To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas
that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope.
It is a platitude," said McCain, taking a clear swipe at Obama in a Tuesday
Voters have been flocking to Obama drawn by his inspirational message of hope
and of a new direction for the country. But critics have argued that his
speeches lack substance, and are short on any brass-tacks policy statements.
"I've not observed every speech that he's given, obviously, but they are
singularly lacking in specifics, and that's when, as the campaign moves forward,
we will be portraying very stark differences," McCain added on Wednesday.
Obama meanwhile, who is slightly ahead of his Democratic rival Hillary
Clinton in the race for delegates to the party's August nominating contest, has
criticized "Bush-McCain Republicans."
Obama currently has some 1,276 delegates to Clinton's 1,233, according to
independent pollsters RealClearPolitics.com.
"George Bush may not be on the ballot this fall, but his tax cuts and his
economic policies are," Obama said this week.
"And if John McCain wants to debate the specifics of how well the economy has
worked for ordinary families over the last seven years that is a debate that I
am happy to have because the American people know that Bush's policies have not
worked for ordinary Americans."
Although McCain is all-but assured of the Republican nomination, rival Mike
Huckabee is still in the race and campaigning hard.
On Thursday the campaign trail took McCain to Vermont and Rhode Island, two
small northeastern states which will also hold primaries on March 4, while Obama
was enjoying a rare day of rest at home in Chicago.
Clinton meanwhile was visiting an Ohio plant of struggling auto giant General
Motors which this week announced record losses of 38.7 billion dollars in 2007.
It was the second campaign visit for GM workers in two days, after Obama
toured a Wisconsin plant on Wednesday.
After a string of defeats to Obama, Clinton badly needs a win and will be
heartened by a poll published by Quinnipiac University Thursday which gave her
55 percent of the vote in Ohio to 34 percent for Obama.
"That's the difference between me and my Democratic opponent. My opponent
gives speeches, I offer solutions," she said, recalling her election promise to
protect consumers from voracious credit companies, a sensitive subject amid the
country's mortgage sub-prime crisis.
"It's one thing to get people excited, I want to empower you to live your
dreams so we can all go forward together," she added.
Peter Brown, head of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said "Ohio
is as good a demographic fit for Senator Clinton as she will find."
"It is blue-collar America, with a smaller percentage of both Democrats with
college educations and African-Americans than in many other states where Senator
Obama has carried the day."
But he warned that "in some of the earlier contests Obama has closed similar
gaps and gone on to win.
"If Clinton can't win the primary there, it is very difficult to see how she
And Obama has one vital card up his sleeve -- the support of three powerful
union leaders who on Thursday attacked Clinton's support for free-trade accords,
particularly a 1994 deal with Canada and Mexico.