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Tight Race for Dems in MA

The road to the white house runs through Massachusetts... for many of the leading Democratic presidential candidates today.

Senator John McCain campaigned at a downtown Boston bar last night. He'll meet voters at Faneuil Hall today.

Hillary Clinton will be at Clark University in Worcester this morning. Barack Obama will meet voters tonight in Boston.

The tight democratic race has led to a split among the state's democratic leadership and among democratic voters.

WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports.

Barbara Maclean is on her way to get coffee in Jamaica Plain, when she reigns in her dog to stop and talk about tomorrow's primary.

"I do have a lot of women friends who feel like if you are woman, you ought to vote for Hillary, but I also have people who feel like she has a little less integrity than Obama and they don't trust the Washington insider factor." Maclean says. "I think it's still a tough choice, I know its been a tough choice for me."

Maclean prefers not to say which candidate she's settled on, unlike most of the Democratic leaders in the state who have chosen sides, and are mobilizing forces in an unusual Presidential primary fight. Senate President Therese Murray is in Hillary Clinton's camp.

"Usually our presidential primaries are nothing, but this is the first time it's us vs. us. Its, the entire party has kind of maneuvered itself into different camps and there's a lot of excitement in the air in both camps." Murray says.

Murray, House Speaker Sal DiMasi and more than 60 state senators and representatives are organizing supporters to make phone calls, hand out leaflets, hold signs on street corners and arrange rides to the polls. Boston Mayor Tom Menino says that machinery and Clinton's experience will secure her victory.

This is not about names its about people and how we can move Massachusetts forward, it's not about you, the who-ha, it's about really down and dirty politics.

The who ha would be the top state Democrats who have signed on with Clinton's opponent, Senator Obama...that's Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator John Kerry, who are scheduled to appear with Obama at a rally in Boston tonight. Obama's supporters say he will come from behind, and his New England Steering committee chairman, Alan Solomont, says fundraising figures, through the end of last year demonstrate Obama's momentum.

"We have out-raised Senator Clinton in MA by a million dollars, which is extraordinary given that Sen. Clinton has been raising money in MA for almost 16 years and up until last Feb. very few people knew who Barack Obama was." Solomont says.

Massachusetts is a critical source of Democratic campaign contributions. Political analysts say money is one reason, in addition to the delegates at stake, that both Democrats want a win here. As both camps push towards tomorrow, there is disagreement about whether there will be lingering tensions. Senate President Murray blasted the party leaders who endorsed Obama last week, calling it was another case of pushing the woman aside for a younger, seemingly more electable man. And former President Bill Clinton angered many voters when he compared Obama's South Carolina win to two Jesse Jackson primary victories in that state. Governor Patrick told church audiences yesterday that the Clinton's introduced a nasty racial tone into the campaign.

It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth that people I respect and worked with went to the lengths that they did. South Carolina repudiated that kind of politicing and I hope MA does as well.

Former state party chairman Phil Johnston is worried that some women or some African Americans won't fully support the party nominee.

"Whenever you talk about race and gender you're going to step on land mines and there are serious tensions within the party that are going to have to be resolved before this election takes place in November. There's a solution to that and they talked about it the other night." Johnston says.

Robert Marshall and four of his grandchildren are tucking Obama for President leaflets under windshield wipers in Roxbury, but are willing to consider a ticket with Obama in the 2nd position.

"Having both of them on, it's historic, its another sign that America is finally coming of age, that the 800 pound elephant that's sitting in the room called race, people are finally going to be able to address that and talk about it." Marshall says.

That's a discussion beyond tomorrow, when Obama and Clinton meet in the Massachusetts primary, a race that will test prestige of Senator Kennedy's endorsement and the backing of Governor Deval Patrick against the political muscle of other dozens or other elected Democrats.

This program aired on February 4, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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