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. Joanne

    Who is more FAKE than OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Get a life!!!!!!!!!!this will hurt him the most......


    April 20, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Jake, Pennsylvania

    . . . This race is about numbers. The candidate with the most numbers
    is the winner. So does it matter what Hillary Clinton says anymore?

    April 20, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. An Ohio Voter

    Count Florida and Michigan. What is the DNC so afraid of??????

    April 20, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Hillary Is Our True Leader!

    It all comes down to White voters VS the Black voters, Hillary is the ONLY one to lead this country in the right direction!.

    April 20, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. bimmer

    The big question now is:

    Why should the American elect a President who and his wife are both unpatriotic?

    April 20, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Dood

    Obama is a wimp. His campaign proves it every day.

    You guys just think he has seen rough stuff from Clinton. The REAL rough stuff will come from the Repubs. Obama is going to get crushed.

    April 20, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. BillyD

    The headline quotes 'most outrageous' – but that doesn't appear anywhere in the article. Where is that quoted from?

    April 20, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. An Ohio Voter

    Count Florida and Michigan. Their votes should be counted. Fix it now.

    April 20, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. Obama is Lame

    Never done a thing for his state.
    Never done a thing for our country.
    Never owned a business.
    Been in public office for a very short time.

    Wow... Perfect person to Govern our Nation... Priceless!!!

    April 20, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. An Ohio Voter

    Count Florida and Michigan. Their votes should be counted. There are 50 states in the United States of America, not 48. Will you throw the entire Democratic party under the bus to please Obama???

    April 20, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Keith in PA

    The McCarthy tactics just aren't working for Clinton. She needs to give it up. This election won't give her the boost she needs into North Carolina. Unless she can win North Carolina this thing is all over.

    April 20, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. l. McHafferty, Martha's Vineyard

    Can anyone imagine a Commander in Chief pulling some of the things
    that Hillary has pulled? President of the United States does not come
    to mind when describing Hillary Clinton.

    April 20, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. Ezz

    eww. she looks so meancing in that photo.

    April 20, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Bushwhacked

    Ho hum. Can we get to real issues, please? I'm afraid this one has been beaten to death.

    Eugene, OR

    April 20, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Jean

    Go OBAMA!!!!!! Am Proud Of You!!!!

    April 20, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Chris - WI

    How in the world could Obama say that her expierience in Washington won't bring real change to Washington. Are you serious?

    April 20, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. An Ohio Voter

    Howard Dean and Superdelegates, Count Michigan and Florida. Why are you so afraid of Obama and his highly educated, overly intelligent and prosperous followers? Are you afraid that they will sneak into the urban areas and burn them down?? What are you afraid of???????

    April 20, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Illinois

    If negative campaigning is such a distraction, then why are you doing it???? Of course, this speaks to your double standard that is continually dogging your campaign.

    a typical white woman in IL, who is fully aware of your corrupt ties to other political figures in the Chicago area (not to mention washington) as well as your poor record in the senate

    April 20, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Grif

    it reminds me of an old statement made.... "Why didn't you do something Nurse?' Reply "There was a Fly in the ointment"....

    April 20, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Kentucky Voter

    I've had it. I am simply praying for a PA upset by Barack Obama. If that occurs, Hillary must drop out and this war will be over.

    April 20, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Obama's lead is double digits in Phily. Her's is only one percent in rural areas. Polls don't include voters who don't have landlines (like myself). An Obama victory in PA Tuesday? Nafta will come back to haunt her. Thanks Bill

    April 20, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Richard Andreason


    Please don't have two people on your show to debate an issue and then feel you have to defend Hillary.

    Tired of your bias.

    April 20, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. strong

    In the homestretch ?

    Well, it's about time. Sick of all this verbal trash between these two clowns. McCain is looking better all the time.

    Go Johnny Go !

    April 20, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Dick in Sioux Falls

    Please, Pennsylvania, end this thing! Vote for Obama!

    April 20, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Jeff Garin just said on "meet the press" that "In 1992, everyone knew Hillary was against NAFTA." So, former Clinton officials, let the contradictions begin.

    April 20, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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