Obama – Clinton : Hillary zooms in to take advantage of Wright issue

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Hillary Clinton on Wednesday fanned the flames surrounding Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright when she voiced outrage over “anti-American” remarks by her rival’s former pastor.

By Andrew Ward in Washington

Mrs Clinton said it was up to voters to decide whether the furore over Mr Obama’s relationship with Mr Wright should influence the presidential race but said she was personally offended by the pastor’s rhetoric.

“I think it’s offensive and outrageous,” she told Bill O’Reilly, the popular conservative talk show host, in a rare appearance on the right-leaning Fox News Channel. “I’m going to express my opinion, others can express theirs.”

Her comments echoed Mr Obama’s own expression of outrage against Mr Wright this week after a series of bombastic public appearances by the pastor in which he renewed some of his most provocative assertions about US foreign policy and race relations.

Mr Obama initially refused to sever ties with his long-time spiritual mentor after video footage emerged of Mr Wright accusing the US of creating the HIV virus to kill black people and saying the country had brought the September 2001 terrorist attacks upon itself.

But on Tuesday he condemned the pastor’s latest outbursts as “divisive and destructive” as he sought to contain the damage from an affair that threatens to derail his bid to become the first African-American US president.

The renewed focus on Mr Wright came as Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton prepare for the next round of Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina next Tuesday.

Victory for Mr Obama in Indiana would strengthen his grip on the Democratic nomination, while defeat would offer fresh hope to Mrs Clinton.

Most recent opinion polls have shown Mrs Clinton with a narrow lead in Indiana and Mr Obama with a comfortable advantage in North Carolina.

The damage caused to Mr Obama by Mr Wright was demonstrated yesterday by an opinion poll that showed a sharp drop in his approval rating among voters – to the same 47 per cent level as Mrs Clinton – since the affair erupted.

The Fox News survey showed that 48 per cent of Democrats believe Mrs Clinton has the best chance of beating John McCain, the Republican candidate, in November, compared to 38 per cent who rate Mr Obama as the stronger candidate.

According to the poll, Mrs Clinton would narrowly beat Mr McCain in a general election, while Mr Obama would narrowly lose.

The Financial Times

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