Presidential race coming to California

January 14, 2008 7:59:51 PM PST
California's presidential primary is three weeks from Tuesday and a new CNN and Los Angeles Times poll is showing how the race is shaping up in the state.

The Republican poll has John McCain on top with 20 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 16 percent, Rudy Giuliani 14, and Mike Huckabee at 13 percent.

The poll's margin of error is six percent so the race could be a dead heat.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has 16 point lead over Barack Obama, 47 to 31 percent. John Edwards is a distant third at 10 percent.

That 16 point spread between Clinton and Obama sounds like a lot, but remember, that's half the lead she had just three months ago.

As voting or caucus day approaches, the race tightens -- and we're seeing the rhetoric becoming more personal.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both say it shouldn't be about race or gender, but those two issues are certainly out there.

In San Jose today, the Obama campaign opened a new office, with the head of 'Women for Obama' announcing Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren's endorsement of the Illinois senator.

Even as they denied gender is an issue, there they were, two women for Obama, opening the campaign office. And with Hillary Clinton capturing the women's vote in New Hampshire, gender is a big issue for the Obama campaign.

Race could become an issue with 50 percent of the voters in South Carolina being African American. Take the flap over last Monday's Clinton speech, in which critics say she suggested Lyndon Johnson had more to do with establishing civil rights laws than Martin Luther King.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Clinton defended herself, saying she wasn't trying to play down Dr. King's contributions, and blamed the Obama campaign for trying to make race an issue.

"For them to somehow suggest that we're interjecting race as a consequence of a statement she made, that we haven't commented on, is pretty hard to figure out," says Obama.

We asked the Clinton campaign for reaction. They lined up Hillary supporter Alice Huffman -- the head of California's NAACP.

"I think I clearly understood the comment that she made and I don't understand why it's gotten to the magnitude where we're discussing that instead of the issues of today."

But those so called "non issues" keep creeping back in. Over the weekend, another Clinton surrogate defended her long time involvement in civil rights and then brought up Obama's admission that as a teen, he used drugs.

"When Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood, that I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book."

Back at Obama's office in San Jose, volunteer Julie Lithcott Haims responded.

"I think there are a lot of emotions and a lot of heated perspectives right now from this campaign's perspective. We want people to be focused on the issues."

ABC 7 political analyst Bruce Cain considers this a particularly dangerous time for the Democrats. Based on the issues of the war and the economy, he believes the Democrats should have a big advantage next November.