COLUMBUS - Michelle Obama thought she was back in Iowa for a second yesterday, but told a crowd of nearly 700 at Ohio State University that the confusion was understandable.
There was a point when few gave her husband a chance of winning that caucus state, and today, 2 1/2 weeks before Ohio's primary, polls show Sen. Barack Obama trailing Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"We're going to win Ohio like we won Iowa,'' Mrs. Obama said. "That's what I'm trying to say. What I feel here in Ohio is just like what I felt in Iowa. I know we can do it here.''
A day after Mrs. Clinton appeared on campus to suggest Mr. Obama doesn't have the experience and clout to take on Republicans and lacks specifics on tough issues like health-care reform, the 44-year-old lawyer and mother fired back in Columbus and Cincinnati.
"Is he tough enough to handle Republicans?'' Mrs. Obama asked. "Do you know where we live? We live in Chicago."
After a string of Obama primary victories, the Clinton campaign hopes to make a stand in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, both of which will vote March 4. Mrs. Clinton campaigned yesterday in Ohio, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will be in Toledo tomorrow.
Mr. Obama concentrated on Wisconsin, which will vote Tuesday.
Like Mrs. Clinton the night before, Mrs. Obama never mentioned her husband's opponent by name, instead referring to the New York senator and former first lady as the "political might of a Democratic dynasty" and as part of a series of presidencies that lacked leadership.
"The bar is moving and shifting, whether it's health care, our retirement, or the environment," she said. "The bar is moving and shifting on folks. Things have gotten worse through Republican and Democratic administrations."
In an often-spirited 47-minute speech, Mrs. Obama repeatedly hit issues like health care, student loans, gas prices, public schools, and two-wage homes, all issues expected to resonate in blue-collar Ohio, where the unemployment rate is well above the national average and home foreclosure rates are among the highest in the nation.
Shaw Perrin, a veterinary student, remains on the fence after hearing Mrs. Obama speak, but he liked some of what he heard.
"I wanted her to address the issue of experience, which she did by highlighting his experience in Illinois and playing the 'I'm outside of Washington, and that's a good thing' part," he said.
A poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut showed that, while Mr. Obama has made gains in recent weeks in Ohio, he trailed Mrs. Clinton by 21 percentage points among likely Democratic voters.
Mrs. Clinton has the support of heavyweights like Gov. Ted Strickland and former U.S. senator and astronaut John Glenn, while Mr. Obama this week won the backing of the Service Employees International Union District 1199, which represents public employees in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
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Michelle Obama thought she was back in Iowa for a second yesterday, but told a crowd of nearly 700 at Ohio State University that the confusion was understandable. There was a point when few gave her husband a chance of winning that caucus state, and today, 2 1/2 weeks before Ohio's primary, polls show Sen. Barack Obama trailing Sen. Hillary Clinton.