(dpa) - The buzz on the eve of state voting later Tuesday was not about who was ahead in the polls but whether Barack Obama had plagiarized the speech of another politician.
YouTube was full of clips showing Obama, 46, using almost the exact same phrases that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick used in defending himself against similar criticism - that he was all words and no action.
Obama's chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, 60, charges nearly every day that Obama makes good speeches promising "hope" and "change" - but lacks the experience, hard-nosed ideas and resilience that she has honed in more than 30 years of public life.
On Saturday night, Obama defended himself against the charges, in a string of rhetorical references that quoted famous leaders like civil rights great Martin Luther King Jr, the US Declaration of Independence and World War II president Franklin D Roosevelt.
"Don't tell me words don't matter. 'I have a dream' - just words? 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal' - just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' - just words? Just speeches?"
Governor Patrick used almost exactly the same pattern when he was charged of being full of hot air during his campaign for the Massachusetts governorship.
Patrick told The New York Times that he and Obama were friends, and that he had shared his language from his own 2006 campaign with Obama's speechwriters.
Clinton's campaign on Monday directly accused Obama of committing plagiarism. Obama responded that Clinton was "carrying it too far."
Obama said in broadcast remarks that he and Patrick "trade ideas all the time" and conceded he perhaps should have attributed the remarks to Patrick, but said he didn't think voters were concerned about the flap.
Voters in the mid-west state of Wisconsin and Washington, in the North-West, are voting later Tuesday for Republican and Democratic hopefuls for their parties' nominations. Democrats in Obama's birth state of Hawaii will also be holding party caucuses.
Republican Senator John McCain, 71, faces little resistance from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee after a series of winner-take-all wins.
Obama and Clinton are locked in one of the closest battles for the nomination in decades, with Obama holding a slight lead in delegates for the national party convention in Denver, Colorado, in August. Obama has swept a string of eight consecutive state victories over Clinton, but Clinton has proven stronger in larger industrial states like California and New York.
The next primary voting is in early March in the large delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas, where Clinton is already focusing her efforts.