Barack Obama’s campaign claimed Wednesday that the race for the Democratic nomination is not even close anymore as the Illinois senator used his twin victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii to reinforce his status as front-runner.
With 10 straight victories under Obama’s belt, campaign manager David Plouffe said he has amassed a lead of 159 pledged delegates over Hillary Clinton and described any contention that the race remains close as “lunacy.”
“This is a wide, wide lead,” he said.
Clinton enters her must-win contests in Ohio and Texas in early March wounded but she’s scouring for ways to better her odds.
The New York senator kicked off what her campaign had billed as a major speech Wednesday morning in New York City by hammering Obama for his reputation as an eloquent and rousing public speaker, casting the election as a choice between “speeches and solutions.”
“It’s time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions,” she said. “Americans have a choice in this election and that choice matters. … While words matter greatly, the best words in the world aren’t enough unless you match them with action.”
And Clinton still is pressing for outside-the-box ways to gain an edge in the delegate count.
The latest total delegate tallies from The Associated Press showed Obama with 1,336 and Clinton with 1,251. The threshold recognized by the Democratic National Committee to clinch the nomination is 2,025.
But the Clinton campaign on Wednesday morning sent an e-mail claiming for the first time that a candidate needs to reach 2,208 delegates to seal the nomination. That number would make it seem like Obama is further from victory than he really is.
Clinton’s campaign still is arguing that Florida and Michigan should have their delegates seated (which would increase the delegate threshold) even though the national committee stripped their delegates for holding early contests in violation of party rules. Clinton won those contests, so a reversal of the DNC decision would benefit her.
Plouffe said the latest delegate projection from Clinton ignores reality.
“They keep coming up with alternative theories on how they can win the nomination that have nothing to do with reality,” Plouffe said. “When they don’t like the delegate math, they try to rewrite the rules.”
In Houston, Texas, Tuesday night, Obama said the country needs a leader who can inspire, but stressed his campaign is not just about good speeches.
“What we’re trying to do here is not easy, and it will not happen overnight. It is going to take more than big rallies,” he said. “It’s going to require more than rousing speeches. It will also require more than policy papers and positions and Web sites. It is going to require something more because the problem that we face in America today is not the lack of good ideas. It’s that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die.”
Clinton’s campaign did not expect to sweep the Wisconsin and Hawaii contests Tuesday, but her twin losses showed startling trends that bode poorly for her going into the next round: Not only did she lose both states by double digits, but she ceded ground to Obama with key voting blocs that once faithfully streamed to the polls for Clinton.
Plouffe described Wisconsin as Clinton’s ideal demographic given its blue-collar and mostly white population. Both those groups went for Obama.
Clinton’s key opportunity to turn the race around is March 4, when delegate-rich Texas and Ohio vote alongside Rhode Island and Vermont.
“If she wins in Texas and Ohio, she will win in Pennsylvania, and I believe she will win the nomination,” Bill Clinton said in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday. Pennsylvania votes a month later.
But polls show Obama is competitive in Texas. Both candidates are campaigning in the Lone Star State Wednesday.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen even called Ohio a “toss up,” though Clinton long has been the favorite there.
“Obviously, this can change, but right now all the trends are moving in Obama’s direction,” Rasmussen told FOX News.
A new projection Wednesday from Rasmussen Markets gave Obama a 79 percent chance of winning the nomination.
Plouffe said Clinton would need massive victories on March 4 to eat into Obama’s pledged delegate lead.
In more bad news for Clinton, presumed GOP nominee John McCain is directing nearly all his fire at the Illinois senator.
The two clashed again Wednesday, as McCain repeated a charge that Obama is reneging on a pledge to accept public financing in a general election.
And he’s mimicking Clinton’s criticism about empty rhetoric, saying Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio: “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that … promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people.”
The Clinton campaign already has stated it will be going after so-called “superdelegates,” the 20 percent of Democratic delegates who go to the August convention uncommitted to either candidate and who are not bound by the results of primaries and caucuses in their states.
Obama has a commanding lead in pledged delegates but still trails in superdelegates. The Illinois senator has urged those delegates, however, to vote the way of their districts and states.
FOX News’ Major Garrett and Aaron Bruns contributed to this report.