CHARLES BABINGTON Associated Press Writer VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP)
Barack Obama could hardly have had a better weekend. On Sunday he added the Maine Democratic presidential caucus to the three contests he swept Saturday against rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, giving him momentum heading into Tuesday's voting in three mid-Atlantic states. For a cherry on top, he won a Grammy award Sunday, beating former president Bill Clinton and others for "best spoken word album," for the audio version of his book, "The Audacity of Hope." While everything seemed to go Obama's way this weekend, the Clinton campaign was regrouping. Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle stepped down a few hours before it was clear that Obama had carried Maine, where both candidates had addressed crowds on Saturday. Obama also won in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington on Saturday. The Illinois senator exulted Sunday, telling a crowd of 18,000 in Virginia Beach, Va., "We have won on the Atlantic coast, we have won on the Gulf coast, we have won on the Pacific coast and we have won between those coasts." The Democratic nomination is far from decided, with weeks or months of campaigning still ahead. Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, is an experienced, well-financed campaigner certainly capable of pulling off more surprise wins, as she did Jan. 8 in New Hampshire. She also is vying with Obama for the endorsement of former candidate John Edwards. Clinton quietly visited Edwards last Thursday in North Carolina, and Obama reportedly planned to do the same today after two rallies in Maryland. For now, at least, the wind is at Obama's back. Polls published Sunday showed him leading in Maryland and Virginia, which hold primaries Tuesday, along with the District of Columbia. Barring a Clinton upset in one of those states, her best bet to slow his momentum may lie in upcoming primaries in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obama has looked buoyant and confident in recent days, basking in huge crowds that cheer him lustily and call out "We love you" and "Yes we can!" On Sunday in Alexandria, Va., Obama took audience questions for the first time in more than a week. While the people and their questions were not chosen in advance, the queries helped Obama outline his differences with Clinton without seeming to attack her unprovoked. "I think it's very hard for Senator Clinton to break out of the politics of the past 15 years," which were divisive and included the Democrats' loss of control in Congress, Obama told a woman who asked how to convince others they should vote for him. Clinton "starts off with 47 percent of the country against her," he told 3,000 people at a high school gym in Alexandria, Va. "That's a hard place to start." Another 1,000 people listened in overflow rooms, typical of the overcapacity crowds Obama has drawn repeatedly. Over the weekend he filled arenas ranging from an 18,000-seat venue in Seattle to a 7,000-seat gym in Bangor, Maine. In each case, several thousand people were turned away remarkable crowds for campaign events nine months before a general election. Clinton draws good-sized, appreciative audiences. But Obama's crowds tend to be several times larger when the two senators campaign in the same state within a day or two of each other.