Crucial primaries could signal fate of Clinton candidacy

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton will try to end the winning streak of rival Barack Obama as they face off in four primaries Tuesday.

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton will try to end the winning streak of rival Barack Obama as they face off in four primaries Tuesday in what some say could be the New York senator's last chance to save her candidacy.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters as she makes a campaign stop at the Burger Activity Center in Austin, Texas, on Monday. ((Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press))

Obama has recorded 11 straight victories leading up to Tuesday's contests in Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio and Texas — the latter two states considered crucial for both candidates. Polls show Obama and Clinton in a virtual tie in Texas and Ohio, which offer 228 and 164 delegates respectively.

Even though the polls are close, the Obama campaign sees Texas as the best opportunity to score a victory, while the Clinton campaign sees Ohio as its best prospect.

But Clinton's husband and other political observers have said she needs to win both Ohio and Texas to keep her candidacy alive as she trails in the delegate count.

Senior Democratic officials could press Clinton to suspend her campaign if she's unable to score victory in Texas or Ohio, in an effort to unify the party. Some fear a continued bitter battle between the two could damage the party and hurt their chances for the presidency.

Arizona Senator John McCain is expected to rack up enough delegates Tuesday to secure victory over former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and become the Republican nominee.

But Clinton gave no indication she was ready to throw in the towel.

"I'm just getting warmed up," she told reporters in Houston on Monday. She will await results in Columbus before returning to Washington.

Supporters cheer for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama during a rally Monday in Houston. ((Rick Bowmer/Associated Press))

Both teams acknowledged that split decisions and close votes could prolong the battle for at least another month or more.

"We know this has been an extraordinary election. It continues to be. We're working hard to do as well as we can," said Obama, who planned to await Texas returns in San Antonio.

Canada and NAFTA draw fire

In the days leading into the crucial primaries, Canada has been pulled into the political contest following threats from both Democratic candidates to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement unless it's renegotiated.

Obama and Clinton have escalated their criticism of the free trade pact in Ohio, where many blame the loss of manufacturing jobs on the agreement.

But Obama came under fire for double talk on the issue when a memo surfaced written by a Canadian consulate staffer after his senior economic policy adviser met with Canadian officials.

The memo stated that Obama's threats should only be viewed as "political positioning."

Clinton lambasted the Illinois senator Monday for saying one thing about NAFTA to appease economically depressed Ohio, and then giving Canada — which opposes new trade negotiations — "the old wink-wink."

But Obama's adviser has said his comments were mischaracterized.

On the Canadian Embassy website Thursday, the government denied that conversations took place between Canadian officials and members of any presidential campaign regarding trade. By Monday, that statement was replaced by one that apologized for any confusion the memo may have caused.

The controversy sparked accusations south of the border that the Conservatives are interfering in the presidential nomination campaign.

"You've got a right-wing government in Canada that is trying to help the Republicans and is out there actively interfering in the campaign," senior Democratic adviser Bob Shrum said on MSNBC's Meet the Press on Sunday night.

But during question period Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper denied "any allegation that this government has attempted to interfere in the American election."

CBC Newsworld will provide comprehensive coverage of the primary results beginning 8 p.m. ET.