State attracts attention from Clinton, Obama

Published 12:38 am Monday, March 10, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — Surrogates for Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned in Mississippi Sunday as the state prepares for its presidential primary that will award 33 Democratic delegates Tuesday.

Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus joined U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson to campaign for Obama in the majority-black Delta — Thompson’s congressional district.

The Democratic governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, campaigned for Obama on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is still recovering 2 1/2 years after Hurricane Katrina.

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And a day after former President Bill Clinton finished a series of appearances in Mississippi for his wife, the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, campaigned Sunday in Jackson. Chelsea Clinton will also speak for her mother Monday in the north Mississippi cities of Grenada and Oxford.

Monday, Obama heads to east Mississippi to Columbus before holding an evening campaign rally at historically black Jackson State University in the capital city.

Obama has an advantage in the state, which has a 37 percent black population.

‘‘I think he’ll win the state very handily,’’ state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said Sunday, citing a pattern of strong black voter turnout in Democratic contests.

Hillary Clinton appeared Thursday at a Mississippi Democratic Party dinner in Canton and Friday at a town hall meeting in Hattiesburg. In Canton, she acknowledged that Obama ‘‘has an enormous amount of support here, as he should.’’

‘‘Some people have said ’Well Mississippi is very much a state that will most likely be in favor of Senator Obama.’ I said ’Well, that’s fine,’ but I want people in Mississippi to know I’m for you,’’ Hillary Clinton said.

Mississippi has 33 delegates that will be awarded proportionally on Tuesday. The state also has seven Democratic superdelegates who can decide on their own which candidate to support. Three have committed to Obama, three are uncommitted and one will be chosen at the state party convention in June.

Christopher Wagner, a political science major at the University of Mississippi, drove in the snow from Oxford to Tupelo Friday night to hear Bill Clinton speak at a fish fry that attracted about 2,000 people. Wagner wore a ‘‘Hillary’’ button and his girlfriend, 23-year-old Julie Moran of Oxford, wore a button with Hillary Clinton’s photo and the slogan, ‘‘You go, girl.’’

‘‘I think she was an unprecedented first lady,’’ said Wagner, 26. ‘‘Basically, I think she was an aide to the president, unlike what a lot of Republicans would like a first lady to be — sit back, bake cookies and decorate the White House.’’

Moran said she also has confidence in Hillary Clinton’s background as senator and former first lady.

‘‘I really think she has the most experience,’’ Moran said. ‘‘I also think she cares deeply about the people of the country.’’

Horhn said he agrees with Obama’s positions on education, economic development and foreign relations.

‘‘I think he represents the best chance this country has to turn itself around,’’ Horhn said.