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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 16:31 GMT
Steely resolve as Clinton battles on
By Jamie Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Ohio, 27th Feb
Ohio and Texas are the next big tests for the candidates

When it comes to presidential candidates' planes, it seems that oranges ARE the only fruit.

Just as my BBC colleague travelling with Barack Obama found, on Hillary Clinton's aircraft the press roll oranges up the incline towards the first class section, as the plane takes off.

It is a case of fact and fiction becoming blurred - a "West Wing" tradition being applied to a candidate whose husband's time in the White House inspired the TV series.

Hillary Clinton feels barely-suppressed anger towards the media at the moment, for what - she argues - is the favourable treatment being given to her Democratic opponent.

So you would half expect her to pick up any orange which reached her and hurl it, past rows of shocked-looking secret service officers, towards the press contingent, as they whistled and feigned innocence.

Now that would be a story.

In reality though, the Clinton plane doesn't seem like the sort of place where much news is made.

Lacking drama

On a flight from Washington DC to Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, the New York Senator remained huddled with her advisers, preparing for what was billed as a debate where she would "throw the kitchen sink" at her opponent.

In the event, it turned out to be a combative but uninspiring affair, rather lacking in drama - of the kitchen sink, or any other variety.

We're now raising on average a million dollars a day on the internet - people have been rallying to my candidacy
Hillary Clinton

So the reporters languishing at the back of the plane were reduced to guessing which outfit she would be wearing at the debate (answer: a brown trouser suit) and, in one case, to doing a passing impression of her husband, Bill.

It has been a long campaign.

The following day, Mrs Clinton did wander back to talk to us, on a short flight from Cleveland to Columbus, which had begun in a blizzard.

But when she did, her words - in contrast to the weather - were pretty undramatic.

Resolute gaze

The whole event had a rather formal air about it: a stump speech on the economy, which she just happened to be giving in the aisle of a Boeing 737, as it was coming in to land.

Hillary Clinton (left) and Barack Obama at the debate in Cleveland, Ohio, 26 February 2008
The Cleveland debate was combative but uninspiring

As reporters struggled to hear her above the plane noise, she brushed off a question about whether or not she had landed a knockout blow in the previous night's debate, saying the prize fighting analogy was simply not relevant.

After 11 straight losses, I asked her, how did she continue to remain optimistic about winning the nomination?

"The success I've had thus far and the prospects for Tuesday," she replied, giving me a resolute gaze.

The economy, stupid

"We're now raising on average a million dollars a day on the internet. People have been rallying to my candidacy. And what keeps me going is knowing that I would be the best president.

"I could handle the problems we have at home and around the world. I have no doubt about that. And I would be the best candidate to take on John McCain - which is going to be a very challenging election."

There was no talk of throwing in the towel if she loses in Ohio and Texas next week ("it's not something I think about"), just plenty of talk about the economy; and what she argues is her unique ability to come up with solutions at a time of widespread economic uncertainty.

She had a teary moment in New Hampshire, but her strategy for winning in Ohio is to show a steely resolve

So, as we approach what some US television networks are calling Super Tuesday, Part 2, there is another sequel in town: "The Return of 'It's the economy, stupid'", playing in venues across Ohio.

It was only a short hop between Cleveland and Columbus - and as reporters tried to ask Senator Clinton extra questions, one of the flight attendants ended the impromptu news conference (or press avail, in the jargon) rather effectively.

"We're landing in about four seconds," a voice shouted out, "so take your seat. Any seat."

We did, amid the press charter anarchy of unstowed tray tables and switched on computers.

Soldiering on

Across the aisle from the seat that I had hastily found, one of the campaign's long-term camera crews had staked out their patch; marking the inside of the fuselage with stickers.

Along with their network's logo was a Bon Jovi sign, as well as another, which read "Fragile, Handle with Care".

It is not a phrase you are going to associate with Hillary Clinton at the moment.

She had her teary moment in New Hampshire, but her strategy for winning in Ohio is to show a steely resolve.

As one of her aides put it: "'Soldiering on' is the correct phrase for our campaign. We've got a very important job to do for the country and we do it."

The question that will be largely answered next Tuesday is: does the country - or at least that part which can still vote in the Democratic primaries - want Senator Clinton in the top job?

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