Obama backers urge Clinton
to quit Dem race if she loses
WASHINGTON – Top supporters of Senator Barack Obama, joined by at least one prominent Democrat yet to endorse a candidate, put pressure on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday to bow out of the presidential race unless she scores clear victories in the crucial big-state primary contests on Tuesday.
“I just think that D-Day is Tuesday,” said Gov. Bill Richardson of , a former Democratic presidential candidate who has yet to throw his support behind either candidate.
And two Obama supporters, Senators John Kerry and Dick Durbin, pushed for Mrs. Clinton to withdraw if she does poorly at the polls on Tuesday.
, and hold primary contests that day, and the Clinton campaign, trailing in the delegates needed for nomination and having lost the last 11 straight contests, has acknowledged that the senator needs to win at least or . Both candidates were campaigning Sunday in .
With Senator John McCain , the presumptive Republican nominee, able to profit from the Democrats’ infighting, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, leveled unusually tough attacks against Mr. McCain on Sunday.
“He runs on his integrity, but he doesn’t seem to have any,” Mr. Dean said on CNN. “ has a history of doing what it takes, regardless of what the ethics are. I think he’s going to be a flawed candidate.” He also called the Arizona senator a “situational ethicist.”
Dean appeared to be referring to reports, including one in , that suggested that McCain sometimes applied tougher ethical standards to others than to himself – a charge Mr. McCain has spiritedly denied.
Richardson wants unifying campaign
Mr. Richardson, saying that it was vital to Democrats’ hopes in the general election in November to mount a positive, unifying campaign, said on the CBS News program “ ” that “whoever has the most delegates after Tuesday, a clear lead, should be, in my judgment, the nominee.”
For that to be Mrs. Clinton, she would have to significantly exceed the results predicted by polls, which now show a virtual toss-up, while Ohio voters narrowly favor her. In the smaller states, Mrs. Clinton holds a lead in while Mr. Obama has the edge in .
Howard Wolfson, the communications director of the Clinton campaign, offered no hint on Sunday that Mrs. Clinton was considering whether to drop out of the race if she did not win on Tuesday. He argued again that Mrs. Clinton had shown her ability to win the big states that would be needed for a Democratic victory in November. “Our coalition of states is broad, it’s diverse,” he said on the ABC News program “This Week.” And Mrs. Clinton, he added, had “a very strong case to make” that she would be the stronger Democrat candidate against Mr. McCain.
And a Clinton supporter, Senator Dianne Feinstein of , said on “ Sunday” that Mrs. Clinton should ignore the pressure to bow out and decide for herself what is best. “ is a major candidate,” Ms. Feinstein said. “She has every right to stay in the race if she chooses to do so.”
‘Has to win a big victory’
Still, some senior Democrats who have endorsed Mr. Obama stepped up the pressure on Mrs. Clinton on Sunday.
of , the unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, said Mrs. Clinton would need more than narrow victories to remain a viable candidate.
“ has to win a big victory in both and ,” he said on the CNN program “Late Edition.”
“It’s not just winning a little bit,” he said. “In order to close the gap on pledged delegates, she’s got to win a very significant victory.”
And Mr. Durbin, Mr. Obama’s fellow Democratic senator from , said the mathematics of the electoral calendar would make it very difficult for Mrs. Clinton to win the nomination even if she broke even with Mr. Obama in the delegates allotted Tuesday.
“If, in fact, there is no measurable change on Tuesday,” he said on Fox, Mrs. Clinton would need “extraordinary percentages” in the remaining contests – averaging 62 percent of the delegates yet to be decided, by his calculation, to go on to victory.
“I hope ultimately she makes an honest appraisal of her chances,” Mr. Durbin said. “I hope after Tuesday her decision is made on the basis of the unity of the party.”
By ’s count, Mrs. Clinton trails Mr. Obama by 109 delegates, with 2,025 needed for nomination. The four states voting Tuesday will award a total of 444 delegates.
Rove says call for exit is unwise
But Karl Rove, the former senior political adviser to and architect of his presidential election victories, said such calls from Democrats for Mrs. Clinton’s withdrawal were unwise and unbecoming.
“I think it’s a mistake for his campaign to be calling for her to drop out,” Mr. Rove said on Fox. That would be seen as “rubbing her nose” in the fact that she is trailing, he said. “It’s up to the delegates at the convention to decide who wins and loses,” he added.
While there has been a growing expectation that Mrs. Clinton would drop out if she did poorly on Tuesday, it is less clear what lesson she might draw from a mixed result. She could, for example, win the popular vote in but lose narrowly in the delegate battle, since has a mixed primary-and-caucus system and Mr. Obama has regularly outperformed her in caucuses.
And some political analysts said that Mrs. Clinton – who has clearly sharpened her attacks on Obama, even as he has been outspending her – appeared to have made some headway in recent days in raising doubts about his experience and readiness to be commander in chief.
If Mrs. Clinton does stay in the race, the next big contest is not until April 22, in . Mrs. Clinton holds a strong lead in polls there, but many Democrats fear continued negativity over that extended period between her and Mr. Obama could seriously damage the party, giving Mr. McCain vital time to mend divisions in the Republican Party between him and some conservatives.