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. sick of negativity

    Please stop blasting each other. I'm sick of it as I would get most of the world is. Focus on the issues instead of each other.

    April 20, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. Right on Day1

    Since their policies are so similar, here's how I decided:

    Obama had me at hope. Hillary lost me in Bosnia.

    All this other stuff is just noise.

    April 20, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Maria

    PA, Please end this primary with Obama for '08!

    April 20, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. Sunny

    Obama is only began his political career not long ago and he already is building his lies. He has nothing to back up what he says. His endorsements don't represent change either. So how is this all change other than he is a minority?

    April 20, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Ryan

    This is so disappointing. What a mess the democrats have made.

    April 20, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. Tom Z

    Barack Obama is a Marxist, pure and simple.

    April 20, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. jay-jay

    The more we find out about Obama, the less I like him. ABC was right to question his character. We simply don't know enough about him.

    April 20, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. dave desmond

    If Sen. Obama keeps his cool while beiing pummelled, he's weak! If he comes after his opponent, he's being negative!

    April 20, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  9. Fredric, Las Vegas

    John McSame will put American lives at risk for the next 100 years if we let him. We are policing a civil war in Iraq. please Pa you can help put an end to this now by voting Obama on Tuesday.Gee I wish I could move from Las Vegas to Pennsylvania and vote again!

    April 20, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  10. Obama 08 from NC

    Hillary is for ever crying, if you continue to place false, negative or even nasty comments about a person, it is only fair they fight to defend themselves. Hillary has been throwing everything in the kitchen at Obama but she expects him not to defend himself. When he does she wants to cry fowl.

    April 20, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  11. Bitter but HOPEful

    Yes, I second Kim's comment. PA voters, bring this one home, please. OBAMA '08!!!

    April 20, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  12. Meg

    Hillary is bent on this whole "experience" deal, but how would her experience beat McCain's? If she wants the person with the most experience to win, she's basically handing the white flag over to him.

    April 20, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. John from Iowa

    Reminder to all of Hillary's supporters; If she loses this race, we must all vote Republican in November!

    Never Obama!!!

    April 20, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  14. Joe

    Another "most outrageous" attack is Hillary calling Obama too negative. That is rich.

    April 20, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. seah

    Most Outrageous attack was Obama flipping off Hillary. The DNC should Dropped him out of the running for that.

    No place for his Gutter politics or style

    April 20, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. fed up

    Shame on both candidates for being negative. I don't care who started it...but...i'm tired. Its the same story as 8 years ago and 4 years ago....which one of you will rise above the negativity?

    April 20, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  17. Ed, CA


    I'm guessing that you don't know what inept means. The Clinton administration was 8 years of relative peace and unrivaled financial growth. If you don't want Clinton, come up with some sensible way to back it up, not some tired slogan.

    April 20, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  18. joyce

    hillary is a witch, liear,fraud,and many more,to bad to pritnt

    April 20, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  19. DS in SD

    Voters of Pennsylvania, you can finally put an end to all this. Please... get Hillary out.

    April 20, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  20. burrisimo

    She is extremely negative and lies to get whatever she desires

    April 20, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  21. R. King

    Can we..... can we...... all just get along?

    April 20, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  22. Eli

    Please PA voters, don't be fooled by slick speech-giving that lacks substance. Hillary '08

    April 20, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  23. Southerner

    Obama's "change" is all about higher taxes and bigger government. The real truth is that after he's done, all you'll have left in your pocket is....CHANGE.

    No Obama...EVER

    April 20, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  24. demcoracynow2008

    Ms Bitter is upset and Obama for telling the truth about her Health Pan figures.
    Go Obama

    April 20, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. demcoracynow2008

    Ms Bitter is upset and Obama for telling the truth about her Health Plan figures.
    Go Obama

    April 20, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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