WASHINGTON (AFP) — Hillary Clinton's camp warned Barack Obama not to declare "mission accomplished" in the Democratic nominating battle Monday, on the eve of two primaries likely to cement his command of the race.
Republican presidential pick John McCain, eyeing a potential general election foe, meanwhile sharpened a foreign policy assault on Obama, accusing the Illinois senator of recklessly minimizing the threat from Iran.
Clinton's campaign took Obama to task after his aides noted he would likely emerge from primary votes in Oregon and Kentucky on Tuesday with a majority of pledged nominating delegates, and looked towards a November clash with McCain.
Obama's attitude was a "slap in the face" to voters in five states yet to hold nominating contests, and millions of Clinton supporters, the former first lady's communications director Howard Wolfson said.
"There is no scenario ... by which Senator Obama will be able to claim the nomination tomorrow night," Wolfson said in a memo.
"Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory are unwarranted.
"Declaring mission accomplished does not make it so," he said as polls predicted Obama would win Oregon, and Clinton would snap up victory in Kentucky.
Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said his boss would likely secure a majority of pledged delegates once Kentucky and Oregon results were in.
"A clear majority of elected delegates will send an unmistakable message -- the people have spoken, and they are ready for change," he wrote in a fundraising email.
"As we near victory in one contest, the next challenge is already heating up," Plouffe said.
"President (George W.) Bush and Senator McCain have begun coordinating their attacks on Barack Obama in an effort to extend their failed policies for a third term."
Obama's campaign says he needs only 16 more pledged delegates -- with 103 on offer in Oregon and Kentucky -- to reach a majority, though the threshold is a purely symbolic milestone.
Obama added endorsements from another three party officials or "superdelegates" Monday, and is now less than 120 total delegates away from the total of 2,025 needed to secure the nomination, according to independent website RealClearPolitics.
But the Clinton campaign maintains the real victory threshold is 2,209 -- including Michigan and Florida, which held primaries but had delegates stripped away by Democratic bosses after breaking scheduling rules.
Obama leads Clinton in every metric of the Democratic race: pledged delegates, superdelegates, and the popular vote of certified nomination contests.
In a symbolic moment, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a 90-year-old Democratic titan who has spent half a century in the Senate, backed Obama, despite his beloved home state voting overwhelmingly for Clinton last week.
Byrd was briefly a member of the Ku Klux Klan but long ago renounced his early racist leanings, and his support of Obama bolsters the Illinois senator's calls for reconciliation as he tries to become the first black US president.
While his team grappled with Clinton, Obama was also under attack from McCain who slammed his offer to hold talks without preconditions, but after preparatory low-level diplomacy, with Iran and other US foes.
The Arizona senator accused Obama of underestimating the threat posed by Iran and showing "inexperience and reckless judgment." Obama shot back that Iran had only grown as a threat because of the "Bush-McCain policy of fighting an endless war in Iraq."
A Suffolk University poll had Obama up in Oregon by 45 percent to 41 percent with eight percent of likely voters undecided. Clinton led in Kentucky, by 51 percent to 25 percent with 11 percent undecided.
Obama meanwhile rode to the defense of his wife, after an advertisement by the Tennessee Republican Party pounced on her remark this year that "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country."
"If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful, because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family," Obama told ABC television.
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