Clinton and Obama rest up for long-haul race

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took a much-needed rest from their presidential campaigns on Easter Sunday as their tight race for the Democratic nomination looked set to drag on for months. ( Reuters )

Republican John McCain, who has locked up his party's nomination, returned from an overseas trip where he tried to polish his foreign policy credentials and prepared for a fundraising swing through Western states this week.

While McCain concentrated on travel and raising money, the Democrats, who pulled in record amounts of funds last month, focused on the next prize in the primary race - Pennsylvania, which holds its nominating contest on April 22.

The contest is crucial for Clinton, who is behind Obama in the number of accumulated pledged delegates who, at a party convention in August, will determine the Democratic nominee for the November 4 election.

Her campaign said on Saturday that strong fundraising showed Democrats were not ready for the Obama-Clinton race to end, but it had to knock down suggestions that she was facing pressure to drop out.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, an ambassador and energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, seemed close to calling for the former first lady to step aside when he endorsed Obama on Friday.

"My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver," he said when announcing his endorsement.

"It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall."

Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson said the race had been declared finished before only to find the New York senator bounce back with wins in New Hampshire, Ohio and Texas.

"Senator Clinton has been counted out many times in this campaign," he told reporters on Saturday. "Each time voters decided that they were not prepared for the campaign to be over, and they had their say, and the campaign continued."

The Democratic race is likely to go on until at least June, when the last few nominating contests are held.

So both candidates are resting up for the long haul ahead.

Clinton took Friday through Sunday off from active campaigning and was scheduled to resume events in Pennsylvania on Monday.

Obama, who campaigned in Oregon on Saturday, was taking a vacation with his family and would not return to active campaigning until Wednesday in North Carolina. A spokesman declined to say where he was spending his vacation.

One place he did not go for Easter was his Chicago church, Trinity United Church of Christ, which sparked controversy for the Illinois senator because of inflammatory sermons made by the pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama gave a speech on race in the United States on Tuesday, rejecting Wright's racially charged remarks and urging Americans to move past their "racial stalemate."

Obama suffered from the controversy last week, slipping in national polls, but a Gallup daily tracking poll issued on Saturday indicated he had made up lost ground, showing 48 percent of Democrats favored him compared to 45 percent who sided with Clinton.

The March 19-21 survey of 1,264 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Clinton had a 7 point edge over Obama in a similar Gallup poll taken March 14-18.

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