Tue, Mar 04, 2008 - Page 9 News List

Texas shootout crucial to survival of Hillary's White House bid

By Jonathan Mann

It's tough to imagine Senator Hillary Clinton giving up her conservative pantsuits and perfect hair for a cowboy hat and holsters on each hip. And so far she hasn't.

But like a gunslinger out of the US' mythical past, Texas is where she is making her stand.

Clinton's campaign is in trouble. Senator Barack Obama has beaten her in 11 consecutive primaries and is ahead in votes, opinion polls and money.

Today, voters will decide in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Even former US president Bill Clinton has publicly acknowledged that "If she wins Texas and Ohio I think she will be the nominee. If [they] don't deliver for her, I don't think she can be."

Texas is the state to watch, though, because it awards more delegates than any other state still in play and, because, it's Texas -- a place with the perfect poetry for a one-on-one do-or-die contest between two determined rivals. Have you ever heard of a shoot-out in Ohio?

Clinton knows Texas. Back in 1972, when she was still in law school, she volunteered to recruit voters along the Rio Grande.

Even she concedes that "Hispanics in South Texas were, understandably, wary of a blond girl from Chicago who didn't speak a word of Spanish."

But she persevered. She made friends in Texas politics and cultivated them while husband Bill was governor of neighboring Arkansas and then president.

Obama hasn't got that history, but he has excitement. And Texas has strange rules: excitement is an asset.

Bill Clinton jokes that "Texas is the only place in America where you can vote twice in the same election without going to jail."

He's right -- Texans can cast a ballot in a voting booth and then vote again at a caucus meeting.

Who would care enough to turn out twice? People who care passionately about their candidate: Obama supporters.

A few months ago, Hillary Clinton had a clear lead in the public opinion polls conducted in Texas.

Now it's a statistical dead heat.

The outcome today could either restore her campaign, or end it entirely.

Texas may be "no country for old men." But it's crucial country for Clinton.

Jonathan Mann is a CNN anchor and correspondent.

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