Obama hits at Clinton in Texas, Ohio

Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies The Reagan era is over MORE (D-Ill.) went on the offensive in Texas and Ohio Thursday, targeting two states his rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) desperately needs to win to resuscitate a campaign that has seen only defeat as of late.

Obama won a key endorsement in delegate-rich Texas, as state House Democratic leader Rep. Jim Dunnam, who previously backed former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), announced he’d support the Illinoisan.

In Ohio, labor leaders backing Obama released an intensely critical memo attacking Clinton on her labor record.

The Clinton campaign has repeatedly said it is banking on strong performances in Texas and Ohio, which don’t hold primaries until March 4. Good performances in those states are key because Obama has won the last eight Democratic contests and is expected to win next Tuesday’s contests in Hawaii and Wisconsin, although some polls show the latter contest to be a tight one.
Dunnam’s endorsement serves as anecdotal evidence that former Edwards supporters are gravitating to Obama, while the memo from the labor leaders in Ohio hits Clinton on her best issue — the economy.

Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE Here; James Little, president of the Transport Workers Union; and William Hite, president of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, wrote in the memo that Clinton’s endorsement of NAFTA was an irresponsible move that led to the economic “devastation” in parts of Ohio.

“The Clinton campaign declared that Ohio is a must-win state for Sen. Clinton,” the memo reads. “But Sen. Clinton will face a formidable opponent in Ohio: her record.”

The memo, timed to coincide with a Clinton campaign visit to the Buckeye State, asks: “Sen. Clinton has the opportunity to come clean with Ohio voters today once and for all — was it a mistake to support NAFTA and PNTR?”

NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, while PNTR refers to legislation granting China permanent normal trade relations. Both bills were approved by Congress during former President Bill Clinton’s administration. On the campaign trail, Sen. Clinton has said she is open to revisiting NAFTA.

Clinton, meanwhile, stepped up her efforts to stop Obama’s momentum by releasing several ads, including one that criticizes the Illinois senator for not joining her in a debate in Wisconsin.

The ad — coupled with polls showing a close race in Wisconsin — apparently forced Obama to spend money on ads of his own that defended his decision not to participate in the Wisconsin debate.

“After 18 debates, with two more coming, Hillary says Barack Obama is ducking debates?” the ad says. “It’s the same old politics, of phony charges and false attacks.”

Kind asks DNC to lose superdelegates

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has asked the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to revisit the issue of superdelegates so that those public officials and party leaders, who could decide the 2008 Democratic nomination, will not do so in the future.

In a letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Kind called superdelegates “an anachronism in modern politics.”

“Their participation in the nominating process provides, at best, the appearance of unfairness and, at worst, a mechanism for thwarting the will of the voters,” Kind wrote.

Kind told The Hill Thursday that he has not heard from Dean, and that as a superdelegate he will support whichever candidate wins his congressional district.

Kind said he has a hard time explaining the concept of superdelegates to his constituents. He also said he fears what constituents will think if the nomination is decided by this group of people now occupying the spotlight.

“It really smacks of elitism,” he said.

Kind has not endorsed either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Both candidates are working hard campaigning in Wisconsin, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

Romney backs McCain

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday endorsed John McCain, his one-time rival for the Republican nomination, and praised the Arizona senator’s position on national security.

Romney’s endorsement follows a trend of Republican leaders coalescing around McCain, who by all counts appears to be the presumptive nominee.

The former governor was perhaps McCain’s most bitter foe in the primaries as the two battled fiercely in the early states, especially Florida. Romney repeatedly questioned the senator’s conservative credentials, and their last debate together was anything but friendly.

On Thursday, however, Romney was sending McCain a valentine.

“As you all saw over the past year, things can get rough in a political campaign,” Romney said. “And in the thick of the fight it’s easy to lose sight of your opponent’s finer qualities. But in the case of Sen. John McCain, I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent.”

Romney dropped out following a weaker than expected showing on Super Tuesday. At the time, he cited the need for the Republican Party to pick a nominee quickly to unite against the Democrats.

Earlier in the day, McCain got a reprieve of sorts when former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Chafee, known for his centrist views, was targeted for defeat by both Democrats and conservative Republicans in 2006. He lost to now-Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D).