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. Richard Andreason

    Hillary has trashed the democratic pary with her "win at all cost policy"

    April 20, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. Patrick House

    I was a 30 years a Republican but now I am supporting Barak because he seems to among other fine qualities,tell the truth.I am a financial professional who respects the economic wisdom of Paul Volker and Warren.I join them as an economist who supports Barak

    April 20, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |


    April 20, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Kevin

    At least Obama tries to run a positive campaign, even if it's not always perfect.

    Hillary doesn't even try to be positive...she has been negative since day one.

    April 20, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. AA For Change

    Its sorta funny, Obama challenging Hillary's financial strength. He is Corporate Candidate 08.

    April 20, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. Obama Nation Stand Up

    Hillary Flips Flops regarding MoveOn.org. I just heard the tape on Meet the Press. Everyone needs to check it out.

    April 20, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. shirley riley

    obamma supporters need to shut- uo about theb clintons? and obama is a loser and a liar?go hillary 08

    April 20, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  8. v.ananthan

    Obama has made many serious mistakes recently...

    I wonder whether leading democrats like Kerry , Kennedy and others who have prematurely endorsed Obama earlier are standing by their candidate and will defend him if Obama gets elected.....

    April 20, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. H

    GO HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!08

    April 20, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. bigben

    Obama is weak

    April 20, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. Vivian

    I never undersatnd why CNN does not post most of my comments. Could it be because I speak the truth about Hillary's digusting behavior?

    April 20, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. Obama the Great Deceiver

    got circus

    April 20, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. Nancy

    Given the fact that Obama has raised much more money than Clinton, makes one wonder just how much more of the kitchen sink her campagne would have thrown out there has the situation been reversed. Had she had equal resources, I think we would have seen the true Clinton machine at work.

    April 20, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. jim in pennsylvania

    with all do respect and without resorting to the gutter.
    my vote and others in my small central pa town goes to
    barack obama

    April 20, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. Ted van Tol

    A few months ago I was a supporter of Hillery Clinton and
    If Hillary had campagned in a desent way she would be
    the nomine.
    But she have showed us a nasty part of her
    caracter and thats why she will lose the primery.

    Ted van Tol
    The Netherlands

    April 20, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. Mary Lee Atlanta,GA

    DO the Math...
    IT"S OVER !!!

    OBAMA '08

    April 20, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Simple thought

    the only thing fake in this election is Obama, there is nothing to him and his wife , they are both bigots.

    old cogger from Missouri.

    April 20, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Simple thought

    the only thing fake in this election is Obama, there is nothing to him and his wife , they are both bigots.

    old cogger from Bowling Green , Missouri.

    ps: why do people wish to be sober????????? JOHN WAYNE

    April 20, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  19. Hillary as an Independent....

    Obama, where is Oprah? Heard her ratings took a nose dive..LMAO

    April 20, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Tony

    I like the way Clinton cries foul when Obama plays her game. You have to mud wrestle with a mud wrestler.

    April 20, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. Pat

    I think that it is important to see that CLINTON is playing OFFENSE and OBAMA is playing defense.


    April 20, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. SAM

    How can you run a positive campaign when you're up against two of the nastiest mud slingers and liars in history?

    April 20, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  23. vic nashville,Tn

    Hillary is leading in National gall poll
    Hillary can do
    Hillary 08

    April 20, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Doc


    OBAMA 08

    April 20, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  25. Chris, San Diego

    Typical Clintons – so power hungry they are willing to drag the whole party down with them and sink the entire ship ti have there way.

    Give it up already girl.

    April 20, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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