Barack Obama fought back against rival Hillary Clinton with stinging attacks on her record Thursday as the Democratic rivals battled for votes in South Carolina and beyond.
The two White House hopefuls have taken their war of words to the airwaves in this conservative southern state where polls show Obama with a double digit lead over Clinton ahead of a Democratic primary here Saturday.
The state is critical for the young Illinois senator, following Clinton victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, and amid polls that show her as the frontrunner nationally.
Faced with a Clinton radio spot -- or advertisement -- claiming he endorses Republican ideas, Obama shot back with a denial and a drubbing of her record.
"She championed NAFTA -- even though it has cost South Carolina thousands of jobs. And worst of all, it was Hillary Clinton who voted for George Bush's war in Iraq," an announcer says in the new radio spot.
"She'll say anything, and change nothing. It's time to turn the page," the spot says.
Clinton returned to South Carolina Thursday to deliver what she billed as a major speech on how she would deal with the economic crisis and mortgage crunch gripping the United States.
She made whirlwind campaign trips Tuesday and Wednesday to California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with an eye on big states that could decide the Democratic nomination, leaving her husband Bill Clinton on the front lines in South Carolina.
While her husband assailed Obama, the former first lady barely even referred to her rival, instead delving deep into healthcare, the mortgage crisis and education -- key concerns of her core blue collar voters.
The former president hurled a venomous new broadside against the Illinois senator Wednesday, accusing him of a political "hit job" and soft treatment from the media.
Bill Clinton was not the only spouse on the stump in South Carolina. Obama deployed his wife Michelle on a tour of the state, where overwhelming black support has propelled the Illinois senator to a 19-point lead over Hillary Clinton, according to a new Zogby poll.
Clinton leads the latest national poll of US voters, with a nine-point lead over Obama, but that lead has shrunk from 24 points in December, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll found.
In the poll, released late Wednesday, Clinton was first among Democrats with 42 percent, Obama was second with 33 percent and former senator John Edwards was third with 11.
However, the poll also found that about two-thirds of Democratic voters now say they are "certain" about who they will vote for, making last minute changes less likely, the Los Angeles Times said in its analysis of the numbers.
Arizona Senator John McCain led the Republican field with 22 percent, followed by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (18 percent), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (17 percent), and former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani (12 percent).
The top three Republicans were in a dead heat when the four-point poll's margin of error was taken into account, and pundits said that the Republican race remained wide open.
The Republican candidates were campaigning full-bore in Florida ahead of its high-stakes primary Tuesday, with its rich prize of 57 winner-take-all delegates to the Republican National Convention in September.
The state was to host a Republican candidate debate in the city of Boca Raton late Thursday that could tip results toward any of the candidates.
"On the eve of a primary, when people who have not been paying attention get a chance to do that, it could be quite decisive," Richard Noyes, an analyst at the Media Research Center in Alexandria, Virginia, said of the debate.
After winning South Carolina's Republican primary last Saturday, McCain picked up a crop of Florida endorsements and one from General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led allied forces in the 1991 Gulf War.
He also bagged a new victory in Louisiana, where preliminary results showed he won the state's caucuses on Tuesday.
A poll of Florida voters Wednesday showed McCain with 25 percent heading into Tuesday's primary, and statistically tied with Romney on 23 percent.
Giuliani, who is staking his presidential campaign on Florida after all but ignoring the early nominating contests, trailed on just 15 percent, alongside Huckabee, in the St. Petersburg Times poll.
Giuliani on Wednesday sidestepped the question whether he would continue his race if he loses the crucial contest in Florida.
"We're going to win in Florida. I have a very good feeling about it," the former New York mayor told CNN.
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