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Candidates turn eyes toward Texas for its trove of delegates

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.star-telegram.com/state_news/story/456409.html Wed, Feb. 06, 2008 Candidates turn eyes toward Texas for its trove of delegates By Jay Root and Anna
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      http://www.star-telegram.com/state_news/story/456409.html

      Wed, Feb. 06, 2008
      Candidates turn eyes toward Texas for its trove of
      delegates
      By Jay Root and Anna M. Tinsley
      Star-Telegram staff writer

      AUSTIN -- Texas suddenly became the biggest prize left
      in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes Tuesday night,
      and campaigns that once suspected that it might be all
      over by now are busy making plans for office space,
      rallies and even a televised debate in Houston this
      month.

      "We're very excited," said Mark Greene, a volunteer
      for Democrat Barack Obama in Tarrant County. "We do
      feel that Texas will play a role and Texas will be a
      kingmaker. Most of us have never experienced that."

      Greene said that the Obama campaign is looking for
      office space in North Texas but that nothing is firm
      yet. For Hillary Clinton's campaign, meanwhile, local
      volunteers are increasing their numbers and expect
      reinforcements to come in from the national campaign
      ahead of the March 4 primary elections.

      "Starting [today] in Tarrant County, we'll identify
      Hillary supporters and ask them to vote in the
      primary," said Jason Smith, a local volunteer for
      Clinton's campaign. "North Texas will deliver a huge
      vote in the Democratic primary."

      Debate in Houston

      Clinton announced Tuesday that she had agreed to
      participate in a Democratic debate, sponsored in part
      by MSNBC, to be held in Houston on Feb. 28. Tim
      Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, is expected to
      moderate. Obama hadn't said yes or no yet when she
      made her announcement, which included an agreement to
      attend three other nationally televised debates,
      including one in Ohio, which also holds its primaries
      March 4.

      "This is an important opportunity for voters in
      upcoming states to hear directly from Sen. Clinton and
      Sen. Obama and make an informed decision about who is
      the best Democratic candidate for president of the
      United States," Clinton's campaign manager Patti Solis
      Doyle said.

      It takes 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic
      nomination, and given the split results Tuesday,
      neither Clinton nor Obama had sewn it up. Of the 444
      delegates up for grabs March 4, 228 are in Texas.
      Several other states will hold primaries before Texas,
      but the Democrats are expected to pay attention to the
      primary in the nation's second-largest state because
      of the number of delegates at stake.

      "This is a must state for both of them," said former
      Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, a Democrat who
      has been close to the Clinton family since the early
      1970s. "Whoever wins Texas and Ohio wins the
      election."

      Mauro said decisions about office space, where to
      visit and who will be coming are being made now. In a
      nod to the power of the Latino vote, Hillary and Bill
      Clinton have both made plans to visit El Paso. There's
      also talk of daughter Chelsea Clinton stopping at
      Texas colleges.

      "I think you'll see Hillary, Bill and Chelsea make
      numerous stops in Texas," Mauro said. "Bill and
      Hillary have deep roots in Texas and they have spent
      lots of time campaigning here over the years. Obama's
      big problem is he probably hasn't been here three
      days."

      GOP visits being set

      Though Arizona Sen. John McCain is the clear
      front-runner, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is
      planning to visit Texas next weekend. He has a
      fundraiser and has scheduled a campaign rally for
      Saturday in Austin.

      Huckabee, a die-hard Razorback fan, said he's willing
      to eat a little crow (or perhaps some fried squirrel)
      if Texas will save his bacon in the presidential
      contest. "Texas may just have to save this Arkansas
      boy and put us over the top in March," Huckabee said
      during a recent appearance in Texas.

      "When that happens I'm afraid I'd be forced to stand
      on stage and say 'Go Aggies,' 'Hook 'em Horns' and 'Go
      Bears' all at the same time. And if you think my
      getting elected president will make history, having me
      say all those things about how much I love Texas,
      folks I'll say it. I'll mean it," Huckabee said. "And
      it'll be the truth that day."

      jroot@...
      Jay Root reports from the Star-Telegram's Austin
      bureau. 512-476-4294 Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
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