BATH, S.D. - Hillary Rodham Clinton scolded John McCain yesterday for his opposition to the farm bill, attempting to maintain the sense that she is already competing against the certain Republican presidential nominee even as her chances for winning the Democratic nomination dim.

As she chatted up rural South Dakotans, Clinton largely ignored Democratic rival Barack Obama, who continued to gain ground in delegates needed to clinch the nomination and who picked up a sought-after endorsement this week from former Sen. John Edwards.

Clinton noted that President Bush has said he will veto the farm bill, which received final approval in Congress yesterday, and McCain has also said he would veto the bill if he were president.

"They're like two sides of the same coin, and it doesn't amount to much change, does it?" the New York senator said. "I believe saying no to the farm bill is saying no to rural America."

Bush and McCain say the bill, which would boost farm subsidies and includes more money for food stamps, is fiscally irresponsible and too generous to wealthy corporate farmers.

"When Bear Stearns needed assistance, we stepped in with a $30 billion package," Clinton said. "But when our farmers need help, all they get from Senator McCain and President Bush is a veto threat."

Obama applauded passage of the bill in a statement released by his campaign, saying the measure was "far from perfect," but "with so much at stake, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good."

Clinton chose South Dakota for her first campaign appearance since her West Virginia win Tuesday, signaling that she is sticking around until the final primaries June 3 despite calls from some Democrats to close ranks behind Obama. The Midwestern state, along with Montana, votes that day - the finish line on the Democratic primary calendar.

"There are a lot of people who say, 'Well, we should just wrap this up,' " she told several hundred South Dakotans while standing on the porch of a fourth-generation family farmhouse. "Well, I've never been impatient with democracy."

Clinton has maintained that her West Virginia triumph this week bolsters her argument that she would be the stronger nominee to face McCain in key states in the fall.

Left with an increasingly unrealistic mathematical path to the nomination, she has turned to philosophical arguments in an effort to appeal to superdelegates, the party leaders and elected officials whose support could determine the nominee.

Clinton was to make one more stop in South Dakota yesterday and then head to California for a fund-raiser.

Delegate Update

Barack Obama collected the support of five

of John Edwards' Democratic convention delegates yesterday, then gained the backing of four superdelegates.

Total delegate count

Barack Obama 1,896

Hillary Clinton 1,718

Wins nomination 2,026*

* This total increased by one as

a result of a Democratic victory

in a special congressional election this week in Mississippi.

SOURCE: Associated Press