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Democratic Race: Clinton hanging on as Obama surges

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:25 p.m., March 5, 2007]

Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, Al Gore and John Edwards are the four frontrunners in the Democratic race. 

 A Fox News poll of registered Democratic voters released last week is troubling news for the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

Clinton now holds an 11-point lead over Illinois Senator Barak Obama. That is down from the 28-point lead the former First Lady had just a month earlier. 

PoliticsWatch goes behind the numbers to look at the race so far.  

Clinton vs. Obama

Clinton's bid to win the Democratic nomination is turning out to be no coronation.  

Despite predictions that he would quickly fade away, Obama has created a two-way race to lead the party. 

An Opinion Dynamics poll for Fox News shows that Clinton has the support of 34 per cent of registered Democrats compared to 23 per cent for Obama. That is a vast improvement from the end of January when Clinton had the support of 43 per cent of Democrats and Obama had just 15 per cent.  

One of the factors in this new trend is that Obama has been able to win the support of African American voters from Clinton. In January, Clinton had the 60 per cent of African American support compared to 20 per cent for Obama, according to a Washington Post poll. But the latest Post poll shows Obama now leads with the support of 44 per cent of African Americans, compared to 33 per cent for Clinton. 

Not surprisingly, both Clinton and Obama crossed paths this week in Selma, Alabama where they participated in activities commemorating a 1965 civil rights march.  

But in a sign that Clinton's campaign is in trouble, she brought along her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, to the event in Selma. The former president remains popular with black voters.  

"Her advisers had planned to hold Bill Clinton off the campaign trail until later in the race," Newsday reported. "But a stunning surge by Obama among black voters in recent weeks has made the former president's help 'all the more pressing,' according to a person close to the campaign."

Not only is Obama taking African American support away from Clinton, he is also winning endorsement from many of the wealthy, big show business names who were supporters of the Clintons during the 1990s. 

Among those is record mogul David Geffen. Geffen raised over $18 million for Clinton's two presidential campaigns. However, this time he is backing Obama. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Geffen expressed his frustrations with the Clinton-era. "Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling,” Geffen said.

That comment provoked the Clinton and Obama teams to get involved in the first controversy of the 2008 campaign. Clinton's campaign not only blamed Obama for Geffen's remarks, but went further and demanded Obama remove Geffen from his campaign and return any money he has raised. 

The Clinton response to Geffen affair has been widely panned in the media as an over reaction and many say that it has created a perception that Clinton's campaign is concerned about Obama cracking the Clintons' once exclusive connections to Hollywood.  

“Her supporters are hearing, `Be with us exclusively. Don’t play the field,’” Martin Kaplan, a former Disney Studios vice president, told one newspaper. “I know people who ... don’t respond warmly to it.” 

Waiting for Gore

After Clinton's meltdown, the second biggest story of the Democratic campaign to date has been speculation about former vice president Al Gore getting in the race. 

Gore isn't running and has not given any serious indication that he will enter the race. 

Still Gore is running third, ahead of declared candidates such as John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, in most polls of registered Democrats. 

Once considered wooden and personality challenged, Gore has become a political "rock star" since he lost the 2000 presidential race to George W. Bush

Gore's climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth recently won an Academy Award, and the former vice president has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

There is speculation that Gore is waiting for the Nobel people to select a winner before entering the race. 

If Gore joined the field after winning an Oscar and a Nobel then his campaign would be hotter than the global warming he fights. 

But Gore himself is dousing the speculation. 

"I don't really have plans to run for office again, but I am involved in a different kind of campaign, to persuade people of the urgency of this climate crisis," he recently said. 

But some of Gore's past supporters see him as an ideal candidate when compared to the two current front runners. 

Gore has the experience Obama is lacking and is a less polarizing force than Clinton. Gore also opposed the Iraq war from the outset, something that has been considered one of Clinton's biggest liabilities with the party's base. 

“Gore's political stock is hot right now," Donna Brazile, Gore's former campaign manager, recently told The Politico. "I don’t know if I would cash in now with so many players still on stage. There’s no reason to force him to declare tomorrow. 

“He could come in at the end of the day as a candidate who can truly unite his party as well as his country." 

Don't Count Out Edwards

Former vice presidential nominee John Edwards' campaign has so far primarily received media attention for controversy. 

Edwards refused to fire two bloggers he hired who were accused of making "anti-Christian" comments. The bloggers eventually voluntarily resigned. 

Over the weekend Edwards was back in the news after conservative pundit Ann Coulter referred to him as a "faggot" at a conservative convention in Washington. 

Edwards campaign has been a disappointment, with some polls showing him trailing Gore and well behind Clinton and Obama. 

However, Edwards seems to have a strategy in place that could make him a serious contender once the primaries begin. 

As many as 15 states are attempting to "frontload" their primaries holding them by February 5. 

That means that the first four primaries or caucuses -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- could be decisive for the rest of the race if one candidate wins three or four of them. 

"John Kerry was nominated for president in 2004, because he beat John Edwards by a few thousand votes in the Iowa caucuses (38% to 32%)," Richard Baehr of the American Thinker wrote this week. 

"Had Edwards won Iowa, the enormous free publicity generated by the win would likely have boosted him in enough other states to win the nomination. Kerry went on to win all of the remaining primaries and caucuses except for two states, powered by his narrow Iowa win, which resulted in the collapse of the frontrunner Howard Dean."

Edwards obviously has learned this lesson from 2004 and that's why a recent Strategic Vision poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus voters found he has a six-point lead on both Clinton and Obama in the Hawkeye state. 

Since the 2004 election, Edwards has visited Iowa 17 times and this week his campaign mailed out 70,000 campaign DVDs to Iowa residents. 

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