WASHINGTON (AFP) — Hillary Clinton admitted Wednesday to a do-or-die struggle in upcoming nominating battles after her 10th successive electoral mauling by White House rival Barack Obama.
"If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she'll be the nominee," Clinton's husband, former president Bill, told supporters in Beaumont, Texas.
"If you don't deliver for her, I don't think she can be. It's all on you," he said.
Obama's victories Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii extended his winning streak since the "Super Tuesday" nationwide primaries ended in deadlock between the Democratic contenders two weeks ago.
John McCain meanwhile declared himself the Republican heir apparent after his own wins Tuesday over Mike Huckabee, who angrily insisted he was still in the race despite the "smug, elitist, arrogant attitude" of party elders.
As the latest televised debate between Obama and Clinton loomed Thursday, the Democrats were looking ahead to the March 4 battles in Texas and Ohio, which are shaping up as pivotal for the former first lady's faltering campaign.
Clinton said that only she could go toe to toe with McCain on national security, and accused Obama of "half-hearted attempts" to stop home foreclosures and extend healthcare to uninsured Americans.
"His plans just don't hold up to scrutiny," she told an NBC television affiliate in Ohio. "So please, look at a candidate who is ready, willing and able to do it. Don't give up on this, let's make it happen."
However, the results in Wisconsin made worrying reading for the Clinton campaign with Obama eating into her core blocs of blue-collar workers, women and middle-aged voters.
Overall, the freshman senator bidding to be America's first black president beat Clinton by 58 percent to 41 in the midwestern state. He took his birth state of Hawaii by a landslide.
In another boost Wednesday, the 1.4 million members of the Teamsters union endorsed Obama as the candidate "in the best position to lead our movement to restore the American dream for working people in this country."
Obama hit back at Clinton's attempts to define this election as a "choice" between her three decades of political experience and his untested appeal for a new dawn in the world's biggest military and economic power.
"It's a choice between the politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn't work in South Carolina, that didn't work in Wisconsin, and will not work in Texas," he told a pumped-up rally in Dallas.
"It is a choice between going into the general election with Republicans or independents already united against us, or running with a campaign that has already united Americans of all parties around the agenda for change."
Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe meanwhile derided as "lunacy" Clinton's argument that the Democratic delegate race was still tied.
"We have opened up a big and meaningful pledged delegate lead. They are going to have to win landslides from here on out to erase it," he said.
According to a tally by the RealClearPolitics website, Obama has 1,356 total delegates to Clinton's 1,267. The winning line for the nomination is 2,025.
Clinton strategist Harold Ickes said her campaign was looking all the way to the final Democratic contest in Puerto Rico on June 7, and would "clinch the nomination" with the aid of Democratic elders called superdelegates.
After a fundraiser early Wednesday in New York, Clinton joined her opponent in Texas where she hopes strong support from Hispanic voters can build a "firewall" to douse the Obama blaze.
The two Democrats were to clash Thursday in Austin at a CNN debate, a forum that Clinton believes favors her policy-oriented discourse over the electrifying oratory of her opponent.
McCain, celebrating wins over former Arkansas governor Huckabee in Wisconsin and Washington state, is already anticipating an Obama match-up in November's presidential election.
The Arizona senator Wednesday branded Obama "naive," seeking to define his Democratic foe as weak on national security, a day after rapping his "eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history."
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