April 20th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
7 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. DFoster Georgia

    Hillary thinks that the entire country is comprised of idiots. Everyone can see through her empty lies. She is bad for New York and bad for the USA.

    April 20, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Ernest

    I told you that the Clinton's are self-serving and talks on both sides of their mouths. They believe that the presidency is their entitlement. The 2008 presidential process has shown how developing (third-world) a nation that we have become.

    Who else for the presidency? Chelsea Clinton? I don’t think so! The buck stops here.

    April 20, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. John, NC

    Please PA voters, we have had enough Clintons and Bushes in the White House. Isn't 20 years enough? We are taking care of that in NC.

    April 20, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. margaret walters

    no to obama!!no to MCcain go hillary!!!! sure better than obama or MCcain or BUSH

    April 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. PA VOTER

    Hillary's still running? When is she going to realize that she has no chance of winning the race??

    April 20, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. DMurphy

    Levi....don't you watch The Colbert report? Manufactured Political Distractions are officially "ON NOTICE"!!!

    Thanks Stephen!!

    Obama '08

    Dana

    April 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Sens. Clinton and Obama are doing none!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  8. leon PA

    she lies so much her supporters believe averthing she say

    April 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Tracy

    Obama is the one who is dishonest.

    April 20, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. bill

    hey levi,, what the Pope should really do is perform an exorcism on hillary clinton, whenever she appears on my tv i hold up my cross hoping she'll just go away!!!!!!!!

    April 20, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. Chris, Bethesda, Maryland

    Here's a thought, gentlemen. How about you all agree to moderate yourselves instead of screaming at your opponent for doing the same thing as you?

    Yes, I know it'll never happen. But the people would love it if it did. Maybe then we could talk about some real issues.

    April 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. Trollmaster CA

    Why is the media creating the false impression that people care about flag pins and "Bittergate" like non issues more than the real issues?

    April 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. Ignorantbama

    It is obvious that Obama is not new and different from other politicians.
    People are simply manipulated.

    I give you an excellent example;

    So called "NEW & IMPROVED" merchandise in the supermarket really new and improved???????

    April 20, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  14. Jeff

    There has been and still is only one candidate to lead this country and that's Hillary!

    Go Champ, you'll do this!

    April 20, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  15. Jayem

    obama forever. New era, new politics!!!

    April 20, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Freddy

    Watch what mud Hillary slings tomorrow. Or Tuesday she is always slinging BS on vote day or before. Mark my words. She will come up with a wopper. It is her true color dirt.

    April 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  17. T

    It's time for Hillary to be left "out in the cold".

    April 20, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. Had Enough of Her in Texas

    Hillary's health care solution IS THE PROBLEM. It's called MANDATED which means you or I have no say in what we get or how much comes out of our checks.

    April 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Maggie

    Oh and Hillary hasn't been negative???? What about the debate??? Didn't see Obama attacking her. At least he was not giving in to the Republicans and Fox News like Hillary is

    April 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. To Levi

    'Your post was absolutely stupid! The divisions between 'us' (race) has been around for over a hundred years. Sign up for night school.

    April 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Iamalsohypo

    please give specifics of the add. you misspoke again !!?? You lost 2008 and 2012 too !! Bye Bye !!

    April 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. From PA

    PA for Hillary!!

    April 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. William Courtland, Waterford, Ontario

    Apologies, spelling: Leiberman; and his democratic influences might create bias and allow party sponsored prevarications.

    April 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  24. Nick

    Hillary is like a bully. She can dish it out but cannot take it.

    April 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Alice

    Too bad comments were closed for the Pittsburgh Tribune endorsement of Hillary. Given the track record of this paper, I cannot help but wonder whether this endorsement is part of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos.

    Be careful Pittsburgh voters!

    April 20, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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