Democrats in Wisconsin and Hawaii go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as their party's presidential nominee.
Party members, like the rest of the American electorate, have probably noticed the campaign between the two senators has become increasingly negative.
Obama of Illinois and Clinton of New York have constantly criticized each other, while trying to become the front-runner in a tight race. The Democrat Party faithful fear the prospect that neither candidate will win enough delegates to secure the nomination before the convention this August.
It might as well be the end of summer as both candidates are feeling the heat. With 2,025 delegates needed for the nomination, presently Obama has 1,281, while Clinton's number 1,218
The Biggest Prize: Wisconsin
Tuesday's biggest prize is Wisconsin, where 74 delegates are up for grabs. Pre-election polls show the two candidates in a statistical tie. Neither candidate made the long trip to campaign in Hawaii. The Aloha State's 20 delegates decide their choice by a caucus.
Obama, who was born in Hawaii and represents Wisconsin's southern neighbor, is hoping to keep his momentum going from his eight straight primary wins. Clinton's campaign has played down her chances in The Badger State, but was hoping to make a good showing above expectations to give her candidacy renewed vigor.
To target the blue-collar working men and women of the industrial-based Midwest, both candidates have focused their barbs on economic issues. Clinton's campaign sent a mailer to Wisconsin voters saying Obama's health care plan would leave 15 million uninsured, while Obama blamed Clinton's "hollering at Republicans and engaging in petty partisan politics" for the failure of the health care initiative she spearheaded in her husband's administration.
Clinton's staff tried to raise doubts about Obama's credibility, pointing out that he has hedged on a pledge to limit himself to public financing in the general election and accusing him of plagiarism for using lines first spoken by his friend Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
"If you ask voters to judge you on the basis of promises and you break them, or on the basis of rhetoric and you lift it, there's not much else there," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters.
"If your whole candidacy is about words, those words should be your own," Clinton told reporters Monday evening. "That's what I think."
Obama shrugged off the criticism of his speeches, saying Clinton has used his lines, too.
While campaigning Monday in Youngstown, Ohio, he turned Clinton's criticism of his oratory into a biting critique of her past support of trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"She says speeches don't put food on the table. You know what? NAFTA didn't put food on the table, either," Obama said, which brought the crowd to its feet in a standing ovation.
Obama spent most of the last week in Wisconsin. Clinton also made appearances there as well as in Ohio and Texas, whose voters will head to the polls for March 4 primaries.
She sponsored television commercials in Wisconsin, criticizing Obama for refusing to debate her in the state. His campaign responded by airing a response commercial that accused her of "the same old politics" of phony attacks. The TV spot pointed out the 18 debates they have already had and two more later this week and next.
Meanwhile, Republican front-runner John McCain hoped to move closer to locking up the nomination with primaries in Wisconsin and Washington State, where 56 delegates are available.
The Arizona senator presently has a total of 908 delegates. His closest rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has 245. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 14.
Source: Associated Press