(CNN) - Bill Clinton became visibly upset Wednesday over comments by a prominent South Carolina Democrat that compared the former president's actions on the trail to those of infamous Republican strategist Lee Atwater.
In an interview with CNN's Jessica Yellin, Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a supporter of Barack Obama, said some of Bill Clinton's recent remarks on the campaign trail were appeals based on race and gender. He said the comments were meant to "suppresses the vote, demoralize voters, and distort the record," and said they were "reminiscent of Lee Atwater."
Clinton sharply disputed the charge, and lashed out at Yellin for raising the question.
"You live for this. This hurts the people of South Carolina," he said. "Because the people of South Carolina come to these meetings and ask questions about what they care about. And what they care about is not what's going to be in the news coverage tonight, because you don't care about it.
"What you care about is this. And the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this and you happily go along. I mean, the people don't care about this," he added. "They never ask about it. And you are determined to take this election away from them. And that's not right. That is not right. This election ought to belong to those people who are out here asking questions about their lives."
ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, West Memphis, Arkansas (CNN) – Veda Hardy received a present last Christmas that no one would want. Had it arrived by postage, she would have handed it back to the mailman with a simple message: Return to Sender.
Hardy said she was one of 80 people laid off by her company in December 2006, while another 350 workers from another business nearby were let go. At 46, receiving a pink slip can be particularly hard. But Hardy, who lives in nearby Searcy, decided to do something about it. She went back to school.
Hardy had seen coverage of our cross country trip from South Carolina to California, where we are making stops along the way to talk to Americans about how the economy is impacting their lives, and possibly their votes.
She approached us to say that the number issue for her is job creation.
“I am currently going to school with a lot of 40-plus age bracket, and I think our concerns are with the job market,” Hardy said.
The issue of jobs even trumped Iraq, a war her son served in for 14 months as a gunner on a M1 Abrams Tank. She supports the U.S. efforts in Iraq and quotes her son about how we hear very little about the achievements being made in the war torn country.
“We tend to look at the negative so much of the war, of the cost, and yes we have loss of lives, oh my goodness,” Hardy said. “But he came home and said ‘Mom you just don’t hear the news reporting about getting electricity, getting running water, clean water. Women can vote.’”
Still, for Hardy it is about jobs.
DILLON, South Carolina (CNN) - Hours afterDemocrat Hillary Clinton launched a radio ad throughout South Carolina criticizing chief rival Barack Obama for comments he made in reference to the Republican party, the Illinois senator's campaign announced they'll be launching their own ad in response.
Clinton's spot highlights a portion of Obama's recent interview with the Reno Journal-Gazette in which the Illinois senator said in part, "The Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years."
"Really? Aren’t those the ideas that got us into the economic mess we’re in today?" a narrator asks.
Though not yet on the air, Obama's radio ad includes the claim that the New York senator is the bearer of "false attacks" and "will say anything to get elected."
"Obama 'did not say that he liked the ideas of Republicans," the announcer continues. "But it was Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Tom Brokaw, who quote 'paid tribute' to Ronald Reagan’s economic and foreign policy."
"She championed NAFTA – even though it has cost South Carolina thousands of jobs. And worst of all, it was Hillary Clinton who voted for George Bush’s war in Iraq."
The ad closes with the announcer saying, "She'll say anything and change nothing. It's time to turn the page."
The campaign said the spot will begin airing "in the next 24 hours" depending on how quickly media markets are able to add it to their rotation of advertisements.
–CNN Political Producer Chris Welch
(CNN) - Democrat Hillary Clinton is launching a radio ad in South Carolina Wednesday that targets Barack Obama's recent comments on the Republican Party – her campaign’s latest effort to capitalize on the Illinois senator’s recent remarks.
The spot highlights a portion of his recent interview with the Reno Journal-Gazette in which the Illinois senator said in part, "The Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years."
"Really? Aren’t those the ideas that got us into the economic mess we’re in today? Ideas like special tax breaks for Wall Street," the ad's narrator asks.. "Running up a $9 trillion debt. Refusing to raise the minimum wage or deal with the housing crisis. Are those the ideas Barack Obama’s talking about?"
Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have repeatedly raised those comments on the campaign trail. Obama's campaign has said the two are mischaracterizing the original comments.
Responding to the radio ad, Obama spokesman Bill Burton called the ad a "negative, dishonest attack."
“In her newest negative, dishonest attack, Clinton claims that Obama praised Republican ideas apparently in an attempt to obscure her record of voting for Republican ideas like bankruptcy, NAFTA and, of course, the war in Iraq," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former presidential candidate, announced Wednesday he is endorsing Mike Huckabee's White House bid.
“I got to know Governor Huckabee well on the campaign trail,” Hunter said in a statement. “Of the remaining candidates I feel that he is strongly committed to strengthening national defense, constructing the border fence and meeting the challenge of China’s emergence as a military superpower that is taking large portions of America’s industrial base.
"Along with these issues of national security, border enforcement and protecting the U.S. industrial base, I see another quality of Mike Huckabee’s candidacy that compels my endorsement," he added. "Mike Huckabee is a man of outstanding character and integrity. I saw that character over the last year of campaigning and was greatly impressed. The other Republican candidates have many strengths and I wish them all well."
(CNN) - Barack Obama's campaign has filed a formal complaint with the Nevada Democratic Party Wednesday over allegations of irregularities in Saturday’s caucuses in that state – “violations” they blame on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I am writing to request that the Nevada State Democratic Party conduct an inquiry into an apparent and disturbing pattern of incidents reported at precinct locations throughout the state during the January 19 Caucus," the Obama campaign’s general counsel, Bob Bauer, said in a letter to State Party Chairwoman Jill Derby.
The complaint includes material Bauer claims was sent out by the Clinton campaign that includes the line: "It's not illegal unless they tell you so."
"This certainly suggests that, for the Clinton campaign, the operative standard was, simply and only, what it could get away with," Bauer wrote.
In his letter, Bauer says the campaign has received reports of more than 1,600 complaints, including reports of voter obstruction and early door closings, many of which came in through a special hotline set up by the campaign.
He said the Obama camp is not challenging the Nevada outcome, but is requesting an official inquiry into campaign tactics by Clinton supporters in the state.
The former president had this to say: "I kind of like seeing Barack and Hillary fight. They're flesh-and-blood people and they have their differences – let' em at it."
But not everyone thinks it's becoming. Several top Democrats are concerned that the gutter politics will end up harming the party's image ahead of the general election.
Senator John Kerry, an Obama backer, wrote in an e-mail to supporters saying: "The truth matters, but how you fight the lies matters even more." Kerry doesn't mention Clinton by name, but says they're fighting back against anonymous e-mails questioning Obama's Christian faith.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, another Obama backer, says attacks coming from the Clintons are similar to what he's seen from Republicans and called comments about Obama from former President Clinton "distortions”. Daschle says such bickering ultimately destroys the party and that it will have a "huge lasting effect down the road... if it doesn't stop soon."
On the other hand, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile thinks this "generational fight" will make the party stronger in the end.
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TAMPA, Florida (CNN) – The day after Fred Thompson announced he was dropping out of the presidential race, Mitt Romney told reporters he believed he had the most to gain from the former senator's exit.
For the Republican party to hold on to the White House, said Romney Wednesday, “I think you have to have social conservatives on board, as well as economic conservatives and foreign policy or national defense conservatives.
"I speak to those three groups. I think Fred Thompson did as well and in some respects his departure from the campaign I think inures to my benefit.”
He added, “I will miss Sen. Thompson's humor at our debates, he is a delightful character.... I appreciate his contributions to this campaign.” The two men often tangled on the campaign trail, with Romney often on the receiving end of attacks from Thompson.
The former Tennessee senator hasn’t said whether he plans to endorse any of his former opponents, including close friend John McCain, and it's unclear which candidate his former supporters might now embrace.
The most recent polls, which were conducted before Thompson ended his run, showed Romney neck-and-neck with McCain in Florida's GOP presidential race.
- CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt
(CNN) - After a week of tense rhetoric regarding the role of race in the presidential election, Bill Clinton said Wednesday that it could cost his wife Hillary Clinton a win in South Carolina.
The former president told voters at a campaign stop in Charleston that race and gender considerations hadn’t cost his wife or Barack Obama any votes so far this campaign – but that some women voters might be drawn to Clinton because of her gender, and some black voters to Obama because of his race: “They are getting votes because of race and gender. That’s why people tell me Hillary doesn’t have a chance to win here.”
Roughly 50 percent of South Carolina’s Democratic primary electorate is black. Barack Obama is leading that group in most recent surveys.
Bill Clinton also addressed concern over his potential involvement in his wife’s administration if she wins the election next November, repeating earlier assurances that he would not serve in the cabinet or hold a full-time staff job.
“She has to have a strong vice president, a strong secretary of state and a strong cabinet,” he said, and “they need to know on the front end that I'm not gonna be big-footing them. That is not my job. I have got a whole other life out here,” spearheading the non-profit Clinton Foundation.
“But I will be there,” he added. “I will do for her what she did for me - I will talk to her about everything.”
Former President Clinton will be campaigning in South Carolina through the Democratic primary this Saturday.
–CNN’s Emily Sherman and Rebecca Sinderbrand