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AUSTIN, Texas - Sen. Barack Obama left a phone message for J.D. Salinas, the county judge in South Texas' Hidalgo County, last weekend. Former Sen. Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., called on the candidate's behalf Wednesday. "He asked me to be part of the campaign," Salinas said. "I told him it was too late."
Salinas originally backed New Mexico's Bill Richardson for the Democratic nomination, believing that a governor from a state along the Mexican border with a lengthy foreign policy résumé had the credentials he was looking for. When Richardson quit the race, Salinas's decision to support Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, was easy. "She's the only candidate who's ever visited South Texas," he said.When the Texas primary campaign begins in earnest after Tuesday's vote in Wisconsin, Obama will find stories such as this all over the Lone Star State. From her incidental connections such as the one Salinas described from the 1992 campaign, to deep friendships formed working in Texas during the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern, to acquaintances gained from multiple visits over the past decades, Clinton is rooted in Texas as she is in few other states.