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. paulo

    An inpeached former president back in the White House, yet simply using the back door... Can't be true!

    April 20, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. SS

    Good to see how hard the Dems are working for America's vote!

    April 20, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Horace P Manure

    Clinton's plan for universal healthcare leaves out one important detail.


    Americans will be required to have health insurance, whether you can afford it or not.

    April 20, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. Puzzled

    One grows weary. A poseur vs. a liar. I feel sorry for desperate democrats.

    April 20, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. HH


    Do I need to say anymore. America is not suppose to run by a monopoly of families. Who is next Jeb Bush and Chelsea Clinton.

    Vote Obama or McCain for change.

    April 20, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Kevin

    You people in the media are still pathetic. Report about Obama's lies too.

    April 20, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. joseph

    Hillary is going to cry again at Larryking live an eve before the primary. That tactics is not gonna work again.NOT THIS TIME.

    April 20, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    She is nothing, but a LIAR! Enough said. The more she and her captives open their mouths, the more they disgusted me!

    April 20, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Warren

    Hil-lie-ry Clinton and William "Blie" Clinton are not trust worthy. Hillary (sniper fire story) and Bill (I didn't have sexual relationship with that woman)


    April 20, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. LouKing4Ward

    When Hilary either wins or loses by a narrow margin on Tuesday, all of us sickened by the most viscious campaign in dem history will be singing "ding dong the witch is dead."

    April 20, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. new ticket




    April 20, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. Stephon L. Scott

    I thought it was slavery, sexism, discrimination, and racism that begot the divisions in America? Oh, but that would be like taking responsiblity; whereas, the easy way out is to blame its victims....

    April 20, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  13. maya OBAMA 08

    please PA, come out to vote on tuesday. i'm sick of Billary. GO OBAMA 08 A CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN .

    April 20, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. Trish- PA

    Why is it that when Obama defends himself it's negative? But when Clinton slings mud it's just tough politics? I am from PA and I CAN'T WAIT to vote for Barack on Tuesday and I hope to God that we can end this blood fest.

    April 20, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Stephon L. Scott

    Say NO! to McClinton and McBush.... Say YES! to a "more perferct union"...

    April 20, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Freddy

    Look who is paying for her campain. Big business that is who she is bought and paid for. Just like her husban. NAFTA is one of their biggest. They are buoght and paid for.

    April 20, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Franky

    "The campaigns most outrages attacks."

    LOL!!!!!! I bet you by the end of this, we'll have the Top 10 most outrages attacks when is all said and done. LOL!!!!

    April 20, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. Jay

    Levi, will you blame the Pope for all the child abuse in the church? I do not thinks so. So do not hold Obama responsible for what his pastor said.

    April 20, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  19. Jake

    Hillary needs to bow out gracefully while she still can. In a few more days it will not be possible. To have to be forced out in disgrace would only tarnish what image she still has left.

    April 20, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. Rob

    Clinton is hoping that if she goes down, she'll take Obama with her. What kind of strategy is that?

    April 20, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  21. White male for Obama

    Yes he attacked your healtcare plan because your healt care plan will forces people to buy it.

    It is mandated for every body even if they can't afford it.
    Oh do you know how it feels to attack person without a reason?

    April 20, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. ch

    Heres to Hillary and a big victory on Tuesday in PA!!!

    April 20, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. Danielle

    Elitist has nothing to do with the amount of earnings. Elitist is an attitude.

    April 20, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. Jay

    Love Hillary. saw her at a Rally in Philly. Wonderful!

    April 20, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. Jack in ND

    Cindy McCain's separately filed tax returns are no more of the public's business than Theresa Kerry's are.

    Even the release of the candidates' own returns is really just a courtesy...there is no requirement to do so, nor are we entitled to see them.

    April 20, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
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