December 17th, 2007
04:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama jabs Edwards on Senate record

Obama stepped up his criticism of Edwards Monday.

SPENCER, Iowa (CNN) - Barack Obama again took aim at Democratic presidential rival John Edwards Monday, telling an Iowa audience that comparing his record with the former North Carolina senator’s “will give you a sense of whether or not folks are real about fighting for” working men and women after winning the White House.

Edwards has made “fighting lobbyists and special interests” a central theme of his campaign, and the two men have spent the past few days in a verbal back-and-forth over the issue.

On Monday, the Illinois senator said he had played a major role in changing federal regulations on congressional gifts, telling the crowd that when he arrived in Washington, there was “a mindset that said there’s nothing wrong with lobbyists scratching the backs of congressmen.”

“The reason now that I raise the issue of special interests is because everybody now in the campaign talks about how I am going to fight for you,” said Obama at a campaign stop in Spencer. “Like Sen. Edwards - who is a good guy – he’s been talking a lot about ‘I am going to fight the lobbyists and the special interests in Washington.’”

“Well, the question you have to ask is, were you fighting for them when you were in the Senate? What did you do? Because I did something immediately upon arriving in the Senate, despite the fact that it wasn’t always a popular position to take.”

Obama’s remarks came the same day Edwards received the endorsement of Mari Culver, wife of Democratic Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. Edwards, Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York are locked in a three-way fight for the lead among Iowa Democrats, with the caucuses just over two weeks away.

In response to the Illinois senator’s remarks, the Edwards campaign sent reporters a transcript of remarks made by Obama strategist David Axelrod on CNN’s Crossfire in the spring of 2004, while he was an adviser to the then-senator. At the time, he said Edwards had “never taken a dime from lobbyists or PACs. He said, let's ban lobbyist money, so you can't give people a bill to pass in the day and a check at night. And that's how we're going to start changing the culture in Washington.”

Later Monday, Edwards himself responded to Obama. “But we do have a philosophical difference about this and I think it’s fair for caucus goers to know it. I mean I have never ever ever taken money from lobbyists or PACs – not just in this campaign, but ever," he said at a campaign event in Des Moines. Obama has accepted money from political action committees in the past, but has not during his presidential campaign.

–CNN’s Mike Roselli and Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Michelle D. - Atlanta, GA

    So when Obama got into the Senate (all those many years ago?) he saw a lot of back-scratching from Lobbyists??? And he thinks that's going to change???

    Guess he's back to smoking reefer again because he's having delusions of grandeur.

    December 17, 2007 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  2. AJ, IL

    For all you political junkies out there! Edwards started this round of sparring first. Obama responded appropriately. First off you have to look all the Congressional presidential candidates voting records in a window that encompasses when they first announced their bid for presidency till they ended their bid for presidency (or VP).

    December 17, 2007 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  3. Liberal Chic


    hear, hear.

    Obama is so full of juice himself. Why didn't he vote to cap credit card interest rates at 30%? Credit card companies can't make a living if they can't charge 55% or something? Why not let credit card companies eat their cake if they can't figure out who to extend credit instead of just sticking them with crazy interest rates and not allowing them to renege on them via bankruptcy.

    Speaking of bankruptcy, Obama pooh poohs Paul Wellstone's efforts to have tried to stop the current bankruptcy bill which does not allow individuals to shed their pre-bankruptcy filing debts (e.g. the crazy credit card loans with 55% interest rates).

    And one more thing for the Senator, he supports the Hamilton Project which was funded by the head of Citigroup, you know that behemoth of corporate interest. What kind of poor man's advocate is he?

    That's the kind of politician he is. A liar like many of his brethren. He can talk the talk. But he knows he can't walk the walk in DC. There are too many opposing forces.

    All you Obama supporters who decry negative attacks except when your guy is doing it (in which case it becomes just highlighting differences) get a clue somewhere.

    December 17, 2007 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  4. Dan, TX

    By Susan Page, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON — Democratic voters increasingly are focused on nominating the most electable presidential candidate, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fares better than New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against prospective Republican rivals.

    December 17, 2007 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  5. Soldier, Chicago, Illinois


    'At least Hillary doesn't lie to us about where her money comes from'.

    Haha! Wow. That's the best line I have heard today- and the Clintons are born liars. Her money has come from more dark places on this planet than Dubyas! Her donors are comprised of pardoned former felons, Chinese lobbyists, etc.

    Vote Obama. Enough of the Bushes and the Clintons.

    December 18, 2007 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  6. hey allons,tn

    hey I'm geting to like John Edwards better all the time if you fight lobbyist and special interests you fight for working people obana get in touch clinton or edwards 08

    December 18, 2007 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  7. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama


    Senator Obama, who has been in the U.S. Senate for less than a year; and voted less than half the time is going to give someone else grief over their record?

    This man, Senator Obama, is an empty shirt. He is the least qualified of all the candidates to be President. And he is certainly not qualified to pass judgement on anyone elses Senate record.

    What gall! I look forward to February 5th when we can bid Senator Obama farewell.

    Pity the poor folks of Illinois that are stuck with him for the next five years.

    December 18, 2007 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  8. Micahel Guinn, Ventura, CA

    I, for one, believe that BOTH Barack Obama and John Edwards are very good men and not the typical politicians!
    I'm an Obama supporter and proud of it, but admire John Edwards.
    As far as HRC being the only candidate that can beat the republicans--HOGWASH!

    December 18, 2007 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  9. Mark Billingsley

    Allan, why is she the best candidate? And don't say she is the most experienced. That is a load of crap. Only Edwards has less experience than Hillary. And to anonymous who wants to see Obama's records...we asked Hillary first. Show us yours and we'll show you ours. Obama has already said though that most records he kept as a state senator are gone. He didn't know there was an Official National Barack Obama State Senator Library...

    December 18, 2007 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  10. Charles in Salt Lake City, UT

    At least Edwards has some record to jab at. Obama needs more than just a fresh face and celebrity endorsement to be taken seriously by more than the starstruck teenybopper crowd. It's called EXPERIENCE. Call us when you have some.

    December 18, 2007 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  11. James, Guam

    What do you know, the true color of Senator Obama is finally coming out of the closet. He is another type of Pres. Bush waiting to happen. We can't afford another disaster in American politics or go down deeper and lose respect from around the world. Wake up America – Voting for Sen. Obama is staying the course that Pres. Bush is currently taking only the Senator has less experience both domestiscally and internationally. Sen. Obama is like a suicide note and a tragedy waiting to happen. Let's not go back to Pres. Bush era, let's move forward and elect a President who has the most experienced and who can lead America to the 22nd Century.

    December 18, 2007 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  12. Independent in IA

    hmmmm....I'm afraid your record is as bad, Obumble.

    The only real difference is you chose not to show up to conduct business.

    As an example: you're out here on the 'campaign trail' instead of being where you promised to be...assisting Sen. Dodd in Washington with a noble effort that could benefit the American people far more than the hot air you're expelling can do.

    Just another committment you've failed to perform.

    December 18, 2007 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  13. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    We'd love to be able to study Obama's Senate record. The problem is, his voting record, expecially with major matters, makes it hard to do so. I would suggest that until he can make it to work and make it to Senate votes on a regular basis, he really needs to stop bashing the vothing records of others.

    December 18, 2007 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  14. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    Congress is a mess, and has been under the thumb of Repulicans for nearly two decades!! I really don't think you can blame John Edwards individually, when some compromise needed to be done for the greater good. He also left that mess in Congrees to pursue a position where he could truly change the paradigm in Washington–as President.

    Can the American people honestly say that any legislation over the past 10 years or more has "really" had the best interests of the American people in mind?

    More "Hillarylike spam directly from Mr. Obama's ("lets keep it clean")lips. I am amazed Mr. Clean Cut (almost white) Obama allowed himself such indulgence.

    I remind you sir, congressional records are public and you can get quite a bit of info. there–including your convenient absences from votes on nearly every piece controversial legislation!!! Yep–commitment shows on the record–both ways!!

    December 18, 2007 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. lianette

    What can you expect to Obama? All I have seen so far is trying to undermine every candidate that he can think of. Why? it is so simple. Obama knows his own qualifications. Obama knows he does not have the experience and knowledge to run this country as president. I could understand Obama to be very ambitious. It is not bad to aim very high but Obama needs to know that we are not in showbiz. To be President is a very critical and serious position. The lives of the American people are at stake. An experienced and knowlegeable candidate is needed to run our country, that on the first day, could run the country in usual business. The candidate so by far has that is Hillary Clinton.

    We don't need a celebrity to vote for President. We are not here to vote to become a celebrity. Obma will continue to use other candidates to hide his less qualifications to be President of the United States. I am a democrat and I love democrats. I am not against of the democrat candidates, but I am here to vote for the candidate ready to roll on the first day of job in the White House.

    December 18, 2007 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. Lisa H., Ann Arbor, MI

    CNN: "Obama Jabs Edwards"

    Same story reported by NY Times:

    "New York Times: Obama and Edwards Engage, Gently, on Special Interests

    Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, two Democratic presidential candidates courting many of the same undecided Iowa voters, added to their efforts Monday to distinguish between each other on the issue of reducing special-interest influence in Washington."

    I think NY Times got it right. CNN, instead of creating this ridiculous story about negative politics, just report the facts. Thanks.

    December 18, 2007 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. JD, Syracuse, NY

    Wow, that is what edwards got from obama after edwards paid his compliment to obama about his policies. Back stabber!

    Guess edwards wont be obama's running mate if he gets nominated.

    December 18, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  18. JD, Phx, AZ

    My goodness, people – haven't the last 7 years taught us the dangers of having an inexperienced president?

    Remember when we all rationalized the bad choice by saying, "Well, at least he's surrounded by experienced advisors."? Yeah – that worked out swell, didn't it?

    I have nothing personal against Sen. Obama – but it's not his time yet. Let him gain some experience in the Senate for 8 years, and we'll see where we're at in 2016, after President Edwards' two terms.

    December 18, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. clinton 2008

    Media coverage for Obama has been overwhelmingly positive much manufactured by reporters, but fails to inspire, suggested divisiveness in Washington stems from struggle of 1960s. that’s naïve. national crisis when Americans come together, politics has always been a divisive affair. Obama Has Not Won a Tough Contest, his ability to win in a difficult contest is reason for concern. Republicans will eat him alive ask John Kerry, Al Gore, or Michael Dukakis. Obama can't hope for change; you must fight for it. His first opponent, Jim Ryan, pulled out of the contest following the release of details from divorce. Obama has only faced ONE difficult battle for Congress against Rep. Bobby Rush. receiving only 30% and lost. Obama's inexperience hurt him.

    His speech opposing Iraq war "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. War protesters have not been able to count on him, during his ballyhooed speech at the 04 Dem convention; he failed to decry the war, followed form and strongly supported John Kerry. When asked how he would have voted on Iraq resolution, don’t know said Obama. Since arriving in the Senate, Obama and Clinton have had identical votes on Iraq. His health plan, lacks a universal mandate, echoing his conservative peers, insists Social Security is crisis that needs immediate attention, not true, Social Security Trust Fund would run out 2046.

    Obama Takes Black Voters for Granted, when a controversy erupted over the Jena Six. Obama chose not to take up the mantle of past civil rights leaders by not joining the Jena Six protest, Jesse Jackson (Obama supporter) said he's acting like he's white. Was a unique moment for Obama to show support for the black community, but didnt. Now he must explain to Democratic voters why he doesn't want to continue the fights of the 1960s - included battles over civil rights, the antiwar movement, expansion of Social Security and expanding health care (Medicare). This is not the time for obama

    December 18, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  20. Ginger Lee, Northern Utah

    I think Obama is a little upset that he is going to end up as VP to Edwards' Presidency...Edwards/Obama 08!

    December 19, 2007 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  21. Lisa from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    To heck with the "top tier" – the second tier is where it's at, and I blame the media for not recognizing that all the experience, wisdom, and integrity is in the SECOND TIER. JOE BIDEN has more experience that Hillary, Edwards, and Obama put together, and his integrity is unimaginable.

    After 35 years of serving in the senate (HE did not USE the position as a mere stepping stone to the presidency as the top tier all did), he is still the second poorest senator. That's because he does not take money for votes – he owes no one a favor. When he first ran for senate, he got money from a group and gave it back when he realized they were doing so because they wanted him to support them when he won. Joe Biden is not bought! He made a promise early on to a constituent that he would not buy stock so that it woudn't effect his vote. This man's friends are not of the wealthy or of Hollywood; they are like you and me. Is it any wonder his campaign doesn't have much money?

    What kind of country do we have when we cannot all support someone who is the person we always wanted of a president? He has been the senator who supports the common person. He is already the leader who is respected by both parties and by international leaders with whom he already has personal relationships with. He has proven records on both foreign policy and domestic issues.

    SHAME on the media for not putting this guy out in front! And shame on the people for not taking their responsibility to choose the right person seriously enough to CREATE a level playing field themselves!

    I have met every Democratic candidate (and a couple of the Republicans) many many times. NO ONE comes close to JOE BIDEN!

    December 28, 2007 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
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