“Rather than an abstract set of questions about, ‘Is he too liberal, is he too conservative, how do voters handle an African American, et cetera,’ I think this is going to be a very concrete contest around very specific plans for how we improve the lives of Americans and our vision for the future,” he said. “I think it is going to have to do with who has a plan to provide relief to people when it comes to their gas prices, who has a real plan to make sure that everybody has health insurance, who’s got a real plan to deal with college affordability.”
Obama said he realizes he must continue introducing himself to millions of Americans who do not know him well, and acknowledged that some question his patriotism because he no longer wears a lapel flag pin.
He said the test of patriotism “is whether we are true to the ideals and values upon which this country was founded,” and willing to fight for them “even when it’s politically inconvenient.”
Obama said McCain has received “a free pass” while he and Clinton have battled for months.
McCain, he said, “has a straight-talker image, but it’s not clear that lately he’s been following through on that image. I mean, this gas tax holiday was a pander.”
The McCain campaign noted that Obama, as an Illinois state senator, once voted for a temporary gas tax suspension, which Obama now calls a mistake.
Although party leaders feel it is only a matter of time before the former first lady must concede defeat, Clinton forged ahead last Saturday, holding a fundraiser for her cash-strapped campaign in New York.
“Let’s keep going, stay with me, this is a great adventure and we’re going to make history,” she told the crowd of several hundred people, most of them women.
She barely mentioned Obama in a speech that focused on issues such as equal pay for women, only noting their differences on health care and the gas tax.
She said it would be “exciting to have the first mother in the White House.”
Polls conducted prior to Tuesday’s West Virginia primary showed Clinton leading Obama by as much as 40 percentage points in the state, where her strongest supporters, white working class voters, make up a substantial portion of the Democratic electorate.
But Clinton has struggled to raise money in recent weeks, and was set back further last Tuesday when she squeaked by with a narrow win in Indiana while Obama won handily in North Carolina.
Clinton has repeatedly vowed to remain in the race until the last of the six remaining nominating contests is waged in early June.
Her husband, Bill Clinton, campaigned last Saturday in Montana, and said the contest should continue until the state’s June 3 primary, which is the last in the nation. But the former president avoided any direct criticisms of Obama, choosing instead to focus on his wife’s differences with the Bush administration.
Democratic party insiders increasingly want to see the historic but contentious nominating contest come to a conclusion. Many of the superdelegates who endorsed Obama in the past week said it is time for the party to unite behind him.
In all, Obama added five superdelegates last Friday and Saturday. Obama added superdelegates from Utah, Ohio and Arizona, as well as two from the Virgin Islands who had previously backed Clinton. Clinton added one in Massachusetts, but lost the two in the Virgin Islands.
“It is perceived that he is the leader,” said Don Fowler, a superdelegate from South Carolina who supports Clinton. “The trickle is going to become an avalanche.”
Sara Kugler reported from New York. Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington and Philip Elliott in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
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