For Clinton to win, she must focus, focus, focus

Eleven days. That's how long Sen. Hillary Clinton has left either to extend this Democratic presidential campaign and fight for the nomination or to see her longtime ambition disappear, possibly forever.

Her husband has made it clear already that the junior senator from New York must beat the junior senator from Illinois in Texas and Ohio, or this campaign is over.

That's why Clinton should ignore the faulty advice of her chief strategist, Mark Penn; tell her communications director, Howard Wolfson, to stop peddling the plagiarism charges against Sen. Barack Obama; and go full-throttle on the economy.

You got it. Return to the 1992 mantra of James Carville and Paul Begala: It's the economy, stupid.

There has been one constant about the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama. Ask anyone. It has boiled down to the best bumper sticker you can find: Change.

Simple. Direct. To the point.

Clinton? She has had more messages than wardrobe changes at a Beyonce concert: "Ready Day One." "I have 35 years of experience." "Solutions, not speeches." Part of the reason America has no clue about the real Hillary Clinton is we keep getting so many different versions of who she is.

In order for Clinton to right this ship, she should make this campaign about one issue, and that is the state of the American economy.

Texas ranks third, behind California and Florida, when it comes to home foreclosures. People are flat-out going crazy because subprime loans are causing their interest rates to skyrocket. During Thursday night's debate, Clinton hit on that subject hard. But guess what will get all the attention? Her being booed for the Xerox comment about Obama's speeches. Was it cute? Sure, even if it ticked off the folks in the room. But a good line isn't reason enough for an undecided voter to choose her over Obama. It's just a good line that likely was fed to her by one of her highly paid and clearly ineffective campaign operatives.

Clinton and Obama spent more time Thursday night in the CNN/Univison debate talking about Cuba, rather than having an in-depth discussion about the skyrocketing cost of tuition, which has really hit public universities, such as The University of Texas. More kids are dropping out before they finish college. Because of the financial crisis on Wall Street, the No. — college loan fund, Sallie Mae, announced a few weeks ago that it will cut back on college loans.

For black and Hispanic children, a Pew study found that not being able to go to college will keep them poor. Who will make up more voters in the Democratic primary in Texas? Blacks and Hispanics. Folks, that's a pocketbook issue.

Clinton has lost 11 straight races, if you include the votes of Democrats who are abroad, because her campaign has been schizophrenic, unwieldy and unable to recognize the force of power she's running against. Her job is to not fight against his speeches. That's an uphill battle. In fact, don't even mention his speeches, Sen. Clinton. Take your eyes off what he's saying and doing, and put it on the people.

Why did so many folks like her closing line in Thursday's debate? Because it had nothing to do with her; it had to do with the American people.

Throughout this campaign, she has emphasized how she's going to solve all of our problems. Obama? He constantly invokes "we." That resonates.

Thursday night, she said: "Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about."

Yep, "the American people."

As Clinton goes around Texas and Ohio, she should return to the strategy she employed in New Hampshire: Stop trying to compete with Obama in rallies, and convene town hall meetings. Take questions. Allow your inner policy wonk to take over.

She did well in the debates last year because she didn't bother showing her soft side. Instead, she made clear that she wanted to be the smartest person in the room. For those who haven't warmed up to Clinton by now, it's too late. This is when her strength must be emphasized over any perceived weakness.

No one can guarantee what is going to happen during the next 11 days. But one thing is for sure: If Clinton chooses to operate the same way she has done during the past month, the only speech she'll be giving March 5 is one announcing that she is suspending her campaign.

Many have said Obama has led a charmed life. But they forget he got whipped summarily by Rep. Bobby Rush in Chicago. Clinton? This is only her third campaign. She's never lost. She's never tasted defeat personally in an election.

That all could change in two weeks if she doesn't lock and load on the economy.

It's all on you, Sen. Clinton. So what are you prepared to do?

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN contributor and the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." Please visit his Web site at . To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at .

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