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Obama: I'm the one to beat McCain

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Obama leads Clinton in Texas caucuses as tally resumes Wednesday
  • Obama says he's better candidate to take on GOP
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton hints at Clinton-Obama ticket if she is nominee
  • Clinton says wins in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island; Obama wins Vermont
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(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama Wednesday challenged Sen. Hillary Clinton's claim that she was the best candidate to take on Sen. John McCain in the fall.

"If the suggestion is somehow that ... she's going to have a better record than I have and will be better able to withstand Republican attacks, I think that's an issue that should be tested," the Illinois Democrat told reporters Wednesday.

"I think that I am in a much stronger position to run against the Republicans than she is, otherwise I wouldn't be running for president," Obama said.

The argument over who would be the best candidate to take on McCain will likely dominate the Democratic race over the next seven weeks as the campaigns turn their attention to the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

The battle between Clinton and Obama took on new life after Clinton broke Obama's 12-contest winning streak Tuesday night. Video Watch Obama say how he will win the nomination »

Clinton won in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, while Obama won Vermont. Many of her supporters had said she had to win both Texas and Ohio to continue to challenge Obama for her party's nomination. Video Watch a preview of the fight ahead »

The next two Democratic contests are the Wyoming caucuses on Saturday and the Mississippi primary on March 11.

Fresh from her dramatic wins in Texas and Ohio, Clinton claimed she could go "toe-to-toe" on national security issues with McCain. CNN's political team weighs in on the results »

McCain locked up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night by winning Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.

"People who voted a month ago didn't know who the Republican nominee was going to be. They didn't perhaps factor in that it will be about national security because, indeed, with Senator McCain, that's what it will be about," Clinton told CNN Wednesday. Video Watch Clinton say she can beat McCain »

"I have a lifetime of experience. Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience. Senator Obama's campaign is about one speech he made in 2002," she said, referring to the Illinois Democrat's speech in which he announced his opposition to the then-pending invasion of Iraq.

But Obama said the voters had rejected Clinton's argument that she was the more experienced candidate.

"One of the things that I hope people start asking is what exactly is this foreign experience that she's claiming," Obama said. "I have not seen any evidence that she is better equipped to handle a crisis."

"If the only criteria is longevity in Washington, then she's certainly not going to beat John McCain on that," he said.

Despite the heated back-and-forth over the last few months, Clinton Wednesday hinted that she would be open to a Clinton-Obama ticket in the fall.

"Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed," Clinton told CBS Wednesday. "But, of course, we have to decide who's on top of the ticket, and I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me."

Obama had built up a lead in the delegate count before Tuesday. He leads Clinton in delegates 1,520 to 1,424, CNN estimates. A candidate needs 2,025 national convention delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama said Wednesday the results do not fundamentally change the race.

"It goes to Wyoming and Mississippi, which we've got coming up this week, and then on to Pennsylvania and a series of other states -- North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana," he told CNN Wednesday. "We are confident that after last night ... we end up emerging with essentially the same delegate count that we had going in and feel confident that we're going to be able to go on to the nomination." Video Watch Obama say what he's focused on now »

Delegate-rich Texas and Ohio were considered must-wins to keep Clinton's campaign alive.

In Ohio, Clinton received 54 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Obama. See county-by-county results in Ohio

In the Texas primary, she won with 51 percent of the vote compared to 48 percent for Obama.

Those figures were based on 99 percent of the precincts reporting in both states.

Texas also held Democratic caucuses Tuesday, but the results were too close to call.

Texas Democratic party officials resumed counting caucus votes Wednesday afternoon after suspending the count at 1 a.m. Video Watch an I-Report video from a Democratic caucus »

As of 1 p.m., Obama was leading Clinton in the Texas caucuses 55 percent to 44 percent with 38 percent of the state reporting, according to the Texas Democratic Party.


A final tally was expected by the end of the day Thursday, the party said.

The candidates will split 67 delegates based on the caucus results, party officials said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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