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Obama Sweeps Three, Focus Shifts to Texas and Ohio

Obama_VA.jpgBarack Obama went three-for-three Tuesday, with widely-predicted decisive victories in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia that not only put him ahead in the delegate count with 1,215 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 1,190, but also demonstrated strengths among demographic groups that were traditionally Clinton's strongholds. This comes on the heels of a five-for-five Obama sweep last weekend.

Coupled with a campaign shakeup of top management and reported financial difficulties, and facing a string of losses to Obama indicative of a strong shift in momentum towards the Barack Star, Hillary Clinton's campaign is on the ropes. Texas and Ohio are must wins, but for Clinton to win in those states she must hold onto the demographic groups which have been her strongest supporters, and the results from yesterday's primaries puts that outcome in doubt.

Clinton has come back from behind before, with wins in New Hampshire and Nevada which also came at a time Obama's momentum appeared insurmountable. Pulling the same comeback now becomes critical for Clinton. She must win in both Texas and Ohio.

Current polls show Clinton with a strong lead in Ohio:

Hillary Clinton's hopes in Ohio appear well-placed, according to a new poll out today.

The SurveyUSA survey gives her a 56 percent to 39 percent lead over Barack Obama, thanks to a 3-2 lead among whites and strong support in the central and eastern parts of the Buckeye State.

Clinton has the backing of popular Governor Ted Strickland, and today picked up the endorsement of former US Senator John Glenn.

In Texas, the battle looms large over the state's significant Latino population:

Like the Daleys of Chicago and the Fords of Tennessee, the Eddie Lucio family is in the business of politics, and everybody knows it. So it came as no surprise that Hillary Clinton courted state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and bagged his endorsement for her presidential campaign.

But rival Barack Obama got the next best thing. He got his own Lucio family endorsement -- from the state senator's son, freshman state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville.

The split decision represents a convenient microcosm of the Clinton-Obama smackdown in Texas, where a huge cache of delegates and an exploding Hispanic population have produced a frantic grab for support in this impoverished but important battleground along the U.S-Mexico border. Experts say the Clinton brand name and a tradition of loyalty among Latino voters give the New York senator the edge going into the contest.

But Obama is counting on a younger generation of Hispanics, who may be more drawn to the romanticism of his candidacy and less sensitive to ethnic tensions that may have contributed to the black-brown divide in other contests.

Clinton_youth.jpgObama has always done well with the younger-aged voters, but the results in California, where Clinton bested Obama among Latino voters aged 18-29 by a 65% to 35% margin, shows that Obama has an uphill climb to win this demographic in Texas. California Latinos aged 30-44 supported Clinton a lesser extent (60% to 40%) than the younger Hispanics, but Hillary's strength among Hispanics aged 18-44 is strong.

Both Lucio men say Obama's African-American heritage has no place in the March 4 Democratic primary. But experts, citing Clinton's huge victory margin with Latinos in states like California, Nevada and Arizona, say Obama will find some tough going among Texas Latinos, who could account for somewhere between a quarter and a third of the vote in the Texas Democratic race.

"A lot of Latinos simply won't vote for an African-American," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, columnist and author of the book The Latino Challenge to Black America.

Wednesday dawned with Obama running spanish-language radio ads across the state that specifically target younger and middle-aged Latinos, appealing to their strong sense of family.

The theme of the ad is that Obama is speaking to Latinos.

A narrator says in Spanish that Obama's parents were not wealthy, but that he worked hard, earned a scholarship and found his path -- graduating from Harvard Law School.

The narrator also says that Obama rejected offers to make more money, opting instead to work with churches to help the less fortunate.

"Obama is talking to me. About the chance to get a college education and to ensure that my parents and grandparents get healthcare," the narrator says.

Cracking the Latino barrier to his success stands poised to become the defining moment in Obama's candidacy. It's a do-or-die proposition for Barack in Texas.

Update: Obama and Clinton Texas TV ads:

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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