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With Reporters Grounded, Obama and Clinton Hold Competing Conference Calls

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Clinton officials tried to pre-empt the Obama campaign on Tuesday with a conference call timed an hour ahead of a major endorsement announcement by their rivals.

But the timing was off -- leaving the two campaigns holding dueling press conferences at precisely the same time.

Fortunately, we had two phones.

On line 1: several Clinton backers from so-called "red" states, vouching for her electability in hard-to-win parts of the country.

On line 2: Sen. Barack Obama himself, with Rep. Carol Shea Porter, the Democrat who surprisingly won New Hampshire's 1st district in the last midterms. Her endorsement means that Obama now has the backing of both the state's House members.

"There wasn't a pundit in Washington who predicted she was going to win," Obama said of his latest supporter. "The winds of change are in the air in Barack Obama," said Shea Porter.

The Clinton campaign call was designed to underscore a new finding in a CBS/New York Times poll (PDF), that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is more "electable" than Obama. "I am very comfortable with Sen. Clinton being electable," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, said.

"Another thing that's so important is the ability to connect in rural America," said Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general of Arkansas, who said he had seen people with pick-up trucks in his state covering up their old George W. Bush bumper stickers with Hillary Clinton ones.

"I think Hillary Clinton has the best chance of being electable in swing parts of the country," Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana said.

On his call, Obama took several questions, including one about electability. He said that his numbers nationally do not reflect what is happening in early voting states, either in terms of his electability or his popularity overall. "When you ask voters in those early states that are now familiar with my record, her record, other candidates' records, you see a very different result," Obama said. His call ended at 2:16 Eastern Standard Time. The Clinton call ended a few minutes later. But not before the Clinton campaign issued a statement declaring that he was "forced to defend electability."

--Anne E. Kornblut

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 11, 2007; 3:21 PM ET
 
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