CORALVILLE, Iowa (CNN) – Barack Obama pushed back hard against his Democratic rivals Friday, telling an overflow audience that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards don't have the right credentials to bring about change, the buzzword that’s come to dominate the Democratic dialogue leading up to next week's Iowa caucuses.
Obama, who is in a dead heat with Clinton and Edwards in most recent Iowa polls, first took aim at the New York senator's claim that he lacks foreign policy experience, dismissing a recent criticism from former President Bill Clinton that a vote for Obama would be a "roll of the dice."
The Illinois senator said the same criticisms came out of the Washington establishment when Clinton himself ran for president in 1992.
"My experience is grounded in understanding how the world sees America, from living overseas and traveling overseas, and having family beyond our shores," Obama said. "It's that experience, that understanding, and not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador's house who I had tea with."
Obama then pivoted to Edwards, who gave a speech on "Change" in Dubuque today in which he said that special interests won't "give up their power because we ask them nicely," a jab that seemed to be aimed squarely at Obama.
Obama urged the crowd to look at a candidate's "track record" in fighting against special interests and suggested Edwards' lucrative former career as a trial lawyer contradicts his current populist overtures.
"I turned down the big money law firms and the trial practices that could make me millions, and instead went to work as a civil rights attorney to make sure I was fighting for justice in the courtrooms," Obama said.
The Obama campaign estimated that 900 people packed into the high school gym here, where snow blanketed the roadways. A few supporters showed up to the event in cross-country skis.
UPDATE: Late Friday, the Clinton campaign released a statement from Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, responding to Obama's comments. "Sen. Clinton has been in refugee camps, clinics, orphanages, and villages all around the world, including places where tea is not the usual drink," said Albright. "In addition to these experiences she has met with world leaders and has known many of them for years. I have been with her on many of these occasions, and it is this combination of experience and understanding that sets her apart from the field, and why I am supporting her for President."
Later, Obama himself responded to Albright's statement. At an Iowa campaign event, he told CNN that "I was making the same comment I've made many times, which is that knowing a country is more than just visiting an ambassadors office. Those folks must really be on edge where they think we spend all of our time thinking about them. They need to think about the American people a little more instead of us."