Wisconsin Voters Brave Cold, Wind


(CNN) -- Voters in the latest battlegrounds for the Democratic presidential nomination faced very different treks to polls and caucuses Tuesday. Wisconsin voters braved single-digit temperatures and a windchill advisory while Hawaii caucus-goers expected to enjoy temperatures in the 80s.

I-Reporter Michael Stouffer says snow and zero degree temperatures could hurt turnout in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Both groups will shape the course of the tight race between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while Wisconsin and Washington state voters could help Sen. John McCain finally knock his last major rival out of the Republican race.

I-Reporter Michael Stouffer of Wausau, Wisconsin, said the weather would not stop him from getting to the polls, though he did fear that the snowfall could prevent the elderly from voting.

"We're still going to get some voting done today. We just got to dig out first," Stouffer said. "This election is so important. I'm going on 50, and I've never seen an election as important as this one."

Stouffer said he was prepared to vote for Obama in the Democratic primary after voting Republican in the last election.

"I think Hillary has the experience, but it's time to take the tablecloth off and give it a shake," he said.

Whether Obama can convince more voters like Stouffer -- independents and Republicans -- to vote for him may be key to an Obama victory in the Wisconsin primary.

Obama also was looking for a win in the Hawaii Democratic caucuses, the state where the Illinois senator was born and still has family.

Clinton is not conceding either contest. In the days before Tuesday's voting, the New York senator sharpened her attacks on Obama and questioned whether he could deliver on his rhetoric.

"I have to say that there is a difference between speeches and solutions, between rhetoric and results. And part of what this campaign is coming down to is a recognition that we need to know as specifically as possible what our next president intends to do," Clinton said during a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Monday night. "We don't need a leap of faith. We don't need to have a beer with the next president. We had that president."

"Although, you know, I would be happy to have a beer too and talk about what we are going to do to solve our problems of the future," she added.

Obama has said that Clinton is too tied to the Washington lobbyists and special interests to bring about the change people want.

"I was convinced the American people wanted something new and different," Obama said in Beloit, Wisconsin, Monday night while explaining why he decided to run. "They didn't want a politics that was about tearing each other down. They wanted politics that was about lifting the country up. They were tired -- you were tired of spin and PR and negative attacks instead of straight talk and honesty and offering practical solutions to our problems."

Obama leads Clinton in the overall delegate count -- 1,262 to 1,213, according to CNN estimates. The estimate includes the support of superdelegates, the party officials and elected officials who are free to vote for any candidate at the party's national convention.

Ninety-four Democratic delegates are at stake Tuesday.

Both candidates are short of the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination, and it is very likely the roughly 800 superdelegates will ultimately decide who will be chosen as the Democrat's presidential nominee.

Recent polls show Clinton has a chance in Wisconsin at ending Obama's winning streak. According to an American Research Group poll conducted February 15 and 16, the two candidates are in a statistical tie, with Clinton at 49 percent and Obama at 43 percent. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Another poll of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters conducted by Research 2000 for Madison television station WISC also indicates the race is too close to call. The WISC poll had Obama at 47 percent and Clinton at 42 percent. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In Wisconsin, Clinton is expected to do well in the Milwaukee metropolitan area and the the industrialized Fox River valley, which includes Appleton and Green Bay, in the northeastern portion of the state. Both areas have a high percentage of blue collar voters, a group Clinton has done well with in previous primaries.

Obama is expected to do well in the state's capital, Madison, which is known for its progressive politics. Obama, who has outperformed Clinton among younger voters, should also do well in the Madison area because of the large student body at the University of Wisconsin.

No polling is available for the Hawaii Democratic caucus. The Clinton campaign dispatched Chelsea Clinton, the candidate's daughter, to rally support. Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, has stumped for her brother.

Washington State Democrats are also heading to the polls Tuesday to vote in that state's primary, but the results will have no impact on how the Washington state delegates will be distributed. The delegate allocation was determined February 9 when Washington state Democrats held caucuses. Obama won those handily over Clinton, 68 percent to 31 percent.

McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is looking for big wins in the Wisconsin and Washington state primaries to demonstrate he is starting to unify the Republican party behind his nomination, including conservatives upset by his positions on immigration, campaign finance and other issues.

McCain said he was guardedly optimistic about Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.

"I think I can appeal not only to our Republican base, but to independent voters," McCain told reporters after a rally in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. "I think there is a strong base here that we could reach out to, and I think I can be very competitive here with my economic as well as other messages."

McCain hopes he can score big enough wins to convince Mike Huckabee, the last remaining top-tier Republican candidate challenging McCain, to drop out of the race. The former Arkansas governor has vowed to stay in the race until McCain has enough delegates to win the nomination, saying voters deserve a choice.

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