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Obama, Clinton Continue Campaigning in Ky., Ore.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Senator Barack Obama drew a massive crowd yesterday in Portland, Oregon. It's one of two states, along with Kentucky, where Obama competes against Hillary Clinton in a primary tomorrow. Oregon is also a state that Democrats expect to carry in November, which makes it a perfect place for Obama to spend his time right now. The Democrat does not want to act like he thinks the nomination is decided, yet he's also working to sound ready for a fall campaign.

NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE: Barack Obama has seen some large crowds, but the 75,000 people gathered in the sunshine in Portland, Oregon yesterday seemed to catch him by surprise. Boaters and kayakers out in the river were pulling up as close as they could to get a listen.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): This is the most spectacular setting for the most spectacular crowd that we have had in this entire campaign. This is unbelievable.

GREENE: Obama praised Hillary Clinton. He said Clinton's been a formidable candidate and has worked as hard as she can; then it was on to the subject of John McCain.

Sen. OBAMA: I don't think we've made great progress over the last seven and a half years, and that's why we can't afford four more years of George W. Bush's ideas in the White House.

GREENE: Speaking of President Bush, he offered another signal that the general election's approaching. Last week Mr. Bush decided to go on the attack against Obama for suggesting a U.S. president should meet with leaders of countries like Iran. Mr. Bush said Obama's idea amounts to appeasement. His remark gave Obama the kind of opening he's been looking for to lump the president together with his party's presumptive nominee. This was Obama Saturday at another event in Oregon.

Sen. OBAMA: If George Bush and John McCain have a problem with direct diplomacy led by the president of the United States, then they can explain why they have a problem with John F. Kennedy, 'cause that's what he did with Khrushchev, or Ronald Reagan, 'cause that's what he did with Gorbachev, or Richard Nixon, 'cause that's what they did with Mao. That's exactly the kind of diplomacy we need to keep us safe.

GREENE: Obama's expected to win Oregon tomorrow while losing to Clinton in Kentucky. By night's end, Obama will likely have a majority of the delegates, allocated based on voting. Still, with plenty of superdelegates undecided, Obama told reporters he'll refrain from declaring victory, and that'll suit John McCain just fine. He had a message for Democrats that he delivered live from New York on Saturday night.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Saturday Night Live")

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): You have two incredibly talented candidates. Why not take every possible second to weigh each of their pros and cons? For all you know, there're a bunch of cons you don't even know about yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. MCCAIN: Cons that won't reveal themselves should you choose a candidate too early.

GREENE: The joke, of course, is that McCain may benefit from a divided Democratic Party. One person who says he won't is Hillary Clinton. She was asked in an interview that aired on CNN yesterday if she's worried that if Obama's the nominee, her supporters might back McCain.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York, Presidential Candidate): You know, in the heat of a primary campaign, people get - their passions are high, they feel intensely. That's all understandable. But once we have a nominee, we're going to have a unified Democratic Party.

GREENE: But not so fast, is her message on the campaign trail, especially in Kentucky, where she's expecting rural working-class voters to put another state in her win column.

Sen. CLINTON: If we get everybody turned out, it's going to send a great message to our country that you don't stop democracy in its tracks. You don't tell some states that they can't vote and other states that have already had the opportunity that they're somehow more important. I don't believe that. I want everybody to vote and everybody to help pick our next president.

GREENE: Clinton noted Obama's absence in the Bluegrass State.

Sen. CLINTON: I am proud to be campaigning in Kentucky. Now, my opponent said the other day he wasn't coming back, so I've got the whole state to myself. What a treat.

GREENE: Clinton planned to stay in Kentucky through election night. Obama plans to watch election results in Iowa, a state that had its caucus back in January and gave Obama his first big win. Obama said he chose Iowa to, quote, "kind of bring things full circle."

David Greene, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: You can get a preview of the Oregon and Kentucky primaries at NPR.org/Elections. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.