April 20th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
10 years ago

In the homestretch: the campaign's 'most outrageous' attacks

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 The Pennsylvania contest's final days are turning into a slugfest.

The Pennsylvania contest's final days are turning into a slugfest.

(CNN) - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama haven’t crossed paths yet during their weekend barnstorming across Pennsylvania. But they’ve been constant campaign trail companions, as each invokes the other at virtually every whistle-stop during the final blitz before Tuesday’s primary vote.

Clinton has attacked Obama for his recent comments about some small town Americans, his heath care plan, and his relative Washington inexperience – which she argues makes him unprepared to lead the country in a crisis.

Obama has taken aim at Clinton over her acceptance of money from political action committees, her health care plan, and her Washington experience – which he argues makes her unprepared to bring real change to the city.

But the most-often repeated charge, the one that makes an appearance at virtually every stop, is: negative campaigning.

"I just heard that my opponent has put out an ad attacking my health care plan, which is kind of curious because my plan covers everybody, and his leaves out 15 million people, just leaves them out in the cold,” said Clinton at a campaign rally in York Saturday. “Instead of attacking the problem he chooses to attack my solution.”

For his part, Obama accused Clinton of looking to create “fake controversy” around him in the race’s final days.

“In the last few months, she’s launched what her campaign calls a ‘kitchen sink’ strategy of negative attacks, which she defends by telling us that this is what the Republicans would do. She says that’s how the game is played,” he told a Philadelphia crowd.

In Paoli, Pennsylvania, he accused her of “slash and burn politics.”

The New York senator, he said at an appearance in Wynnewood, was “throwing everything at me and seeing if something sticks,” which he called a GOP tactic.

In response, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer e-mailed reporters a link to a quiz on the campaign’s Web site that asked them to decide who had made a given quote attacking Clinton: a member of Obama’s campaign, or a Republican.

The charges and countercharges aren’t limited to the candidates’ stump speeches. Over the past three days, both have launched negative robo-calls, tough mailers, and matching attack ads on special interest influence over their opponent. And on dueling conference calls, surrogates have used some of the race’s harshest language to date.

On an Obama conference call with reporters Saturday, Gen. Walter Stewart said Clinton’s misstatements about her trip to Bosnia as First Lady mean she “lacks the moral authority” to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

At a campaign event at Pennsylvania’s California University shortly after the call, Clinton said that the Illinois senator “always says in his speeches that he is running a positive campaign – but then his campaign does the opposite.”

Later, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson sent reporters a memo charging that Obama had “has flooded airwaves, radio, phone lines and mailboxes with negative and false attacks against Hillary” in the previous 48 hours, calling Stewart’s remarks “the most outrageous attack of the campaign.”

The tough words underlie the high stakes, and the closeness of the race. After leading by 20 points just a few weeks ago, Clinton’s lead has shrunk to the single digits in the most recent CNN Pennsylvania Poll of Polls, an average of recent campaign surveys. Clinton, who has some roots in the state’s northeast corner, has a strong base in the state: solid support from working-class white voters, Catholics and seniors, in a state where all three are powerful and potentially decisive voting blocs.

But a record level of new voters and party-switchers in Pennsylvania – the most in any primary contest, and second in number only to the 2004 general election – have propelled Obama into contention here. On Friday, he drew an estimated 35,000 – the largest crowd of his campaign - at an outdoor rally in Philadelphia.

The risk for both is that supporters may be turned off by the race’s negative tone – a danger both recognize.

"You’ve been watching this campaign for a couple weeks, at least here in Pennsylvania, and let’s face it, it’s not pretty," Obama acknowledged Saturday in Paoli. "But the issue is not whether people are saying nasty things. The problem is that it’s a distraction from solving the problems that have to be solved."

soundoff (359 Responses)
  1. bill in pa

    I can't wait until Wednesday. The politicians will finally be gone.

    April 20, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. hillary 08:

    i love you Hillary....
    can't wait to vote for YOU on Tuesday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for coming to my hometown WESTLAWN yesterday!

    April 20, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Ardnuas

    PA voters are voting for Barack, because he is the BEST person to CHANGE and UNITE our democratic party !
    Obama/Edwards08 Si Se Puede

    April 20, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. Elisabeth


    April 20, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. freddie mercury

    Well said,Elvis.

    April 20, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. BrokerDealer

    If PA voters go with a proven liar (Bosnia) then I expect them to vote against their interests in November.

    April 20, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. elvispresley

    Go Obama! NO MORE Clintons in the White House!!Hillary "ANNOYING" Clinton is NOT good enough to be President! ENOUGH of Clintons!!VOTE for the charismatic,fresh Obama.

    April 20, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. ralph tyler

    Anybody can have a health care plan. Getting it implemented is another thing altogether. Hillary Clinton couldn't get along or work with her own image in the mirror, let alone Congress.

    April 20, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  9. Kobs

    Please also note that Obama had to prove like so many times that "yes we can" !!!
    So good for the Clintons

    April 20, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. freddie mercury

    Well said,elvispresley. GO Obama!

    April 20, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Ron

    Shame on you Obama, where is your message of Hope gone? oh yes it was just a speach!!!!

    April 20, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. freddie mercury

    Well said,elvis. Go Obama! Defeat that annoying woman!!

    April 20, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. Susan MO

    Obama is the one who says 'nasty things'. But not only to the other 2 candidates, but to

    The People of Pennsylvania. He lost votes because he is so negative.

    We do not need a president who insults the people.

    Now Strongely for Hillary Clinton

    April 20, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  14. freddie mercury

    Well said,elvis. Go Obama ! Defeat that Irritating Woman!

    April 20, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  15. dave, michigan

    So Obama thinks that questions about his character are a distraction from solving the problems that have to be solved. Really. He's the distraction and the sooner he gets out of the race the better.

    April 20, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. elvispresley

    »»GO Obama! Defeat that ANNOYING,FAKE Woman!!

    April 20, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  17. Fabienne

    Go Obama and let's knock out the Clintons in the this last round in PA!

    April 20, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. Cherokee

    Stop the negative attacks. Get to the ISSUES.

    April 20, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. dave, michigan

    So did anyone else catch Obamas comments on the US Nuke Arsenal, and how he thinks we should get rid of them. NUTS.
    The MAD doctrine only works if we've got the BOMB.

    April 20, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. Cathy

    "The risk for both is that supporters may be turned off by the race’s negative tone – a danger both recognize"

    If that is the case–then stop it. For one, I know my husband and I are tired of even looking at the news because it's no different than reading the Enquirer or Star Magazine–just nonsense. I want to know more about the objectives not the superficial stuff that EVERY candidate posses.

    April 20, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. dave, michigan

    My only HOPE is that the poeple of Pennsylvania are as smart and informed as they cliam to be and vote for Clinton, so that we the poeple can get a better look at Obama and all of his nutty ideas.

    April 20, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Jack in ND

    I implore Pennsylvania to shock the nation and wrap this up.

    Think of the ad blitz you've endured and ask yourself if you'd wish that on your fellow citizens in other states.

    April 20, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. George, Long Island

    What Clinton says is irrelevant at this point. She has for all intensive
    purposes, lost. A five point lead in Pennsylvania will not net her a win.
    Its time for her to start facing that facts.

    April 20, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Jason, Texas

    Please, lets get this over with! Penn... vote Barack!!!!

    April 20, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. TF

    "Let's get it on!!" -Mills Lane

    April 20, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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