COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care plan Wednesday as a carbon copy of her husband's plan, and accused the New York Democrat of selling lobbyists insider access to the government.
In an interview with CNN before attending a rally here for protestors on behalf of six African-American students in Jena, Louisiana, Mrs. Edwards accused Clinton of "insider cronyism" and trading political access for campaign donations. This comes on the heels of similar sentiments put forth by her husband in recent weeks.
"You can have a meeting with a member of Congress if you donate to Hillary's campaign," said Mrs. Edwards. "What this is saying is she's willing to sell special access to the government if you just have the check. Isn't that just exactly what John is saying we shouldn't be doing?"
Mrs. Edwards also said that she sees almost no differences between Clinton's health care plan, unveiled Monday in Des Moines, and that of her husband.
"I don't call it Senator Clinton's health care plan," Edwards said. "I call it John Edwards' health care plan as delivered by Hillary Clinton. The truth is that anyone who tries to describe Hillary's health care plan will run through every material part of John's health care plan.
"I just have to wonder, if John released his plan at the beginning of February, what took her seven and a half months to endorse it? We're glad for the endorsement."
Clinton has said she is the best qualified candidate to deal with health care reform because she learned from mistakes made in 1993 and 1994 when, as first lady, she introduced health care reform to Congress. Edwards took issue with that suggestion, saying that the Clinton administration abandoned universal health care in the nineties in favor of passing NAFTA.
"I don't think we should engage in revisionism," said Mrs. Edwards. "I am glad she did that health care plan. I was impressed with her when she did it. But did she learn something from it? I can't see what she's learned."
Mrs. Edwards also struck back at criticisms in recent days from the Clinton campaign that her husband’s White House bid is "flagging."
"Whenever we make a substantive statement with respect to some way in which we think Sen. Clinton is not behaving in the best interest of the American public, not representing the kind of president that we need in the future, the response of that campaign is exactly the same every single time," she said. "They use the words 'flagging campaign' as if you can erase, just erase everything John said. There's no merit to it whatsoever."
Mrs. Edwards also suggested, as she has before, that the presidential race at this point is about celebrity rather than real issues. Her husband trails Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in most national polls, although he remains in first or second place in recent Iowa polls.
"When we quit having the People magazine race and start having the actual race for president, when people are deciding which candidate best represents their aspirations and their expectations for government, that's when John succeeds," Mrs. Edwards said.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Mrs. Edwards' remarks.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby