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. Leapfrog

    Hey, Pope Benedict, can you exorcize the demons of campaigning from our poor land???

    April 20, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. PA for Change

    McCain now knows who is his opponent is...All attacks are against Obama. Hillary is helping him by her negative tactics. We need to end this primary soon so that we focus on McSame.
    PA, you have a golden chance to end this race by voting Obama
    Yes, we can

    April 20, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  3. Ralph

    Obama doesn't have any reason to attack Clinton ,who is our next president, so he just makes up things, and his fools who are
    ignorant believe everything the moran has to say.

    April 20, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Gord

    Democrats are such hypocrites. They pretend they so much holier than Republicans, but are just the same. That is of course, a hypocrite.

    April 20, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Craig A. Carroll Hastings, MN

    Nothing new here. This is politics in the USA. Disgusting isn't it.

    Vote Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd

    Best choice going.

    April 20, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    SCrew all of this dam negative campaign attack ads. Screw it all to hail. Vote for Hillary.

    Hillary and Nader

    April 20, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Polls in all battle ground states show Obama trailing John McCain by double digits.

    Obama its time for you to step down,dont divide the party.

    April 20, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. mark

    If Hillary did not change party after she met Bill, maybe by this time she would have been a president candidate from republican party. She mastered all the republic attack machines.

    April 20, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. prakash chand

    polls in battle ground states show obama loosing in generak elections.

    so what you gotta say now mr osama.

    April 20, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. John kaguah

    The underdogs have to bear the burden of being misquoted, misunderstood, but if the world was asked to take part in these election as voters 100% would vote for Obama.

    April 20, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    When Hillary comes to Pennsuylvania, dont be surprised if you see Nader with her. This is the change were' talking about. Real change. Real people. Screw the negative crap. Vote Hillary. And do it now.

    April 20, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. David

    Obama/ Clinton Clinton/ Obama 08 is the only real solution for the party.......

    April 20, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Listen people: It's not about unifying the party (that rhetoric played out in the 60's). It's all about winning. Vote for Hillary.

    The Hillary and Nader agenda, 2008.

    April 20, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. Voice of Reason

    Yes, because forcing everyone to buy health insurance inside of a recession is the "solution".

    Sounds good* to me.

    * Please replace the word good with the phrase "like the product of insurance lobbyists" ... for a more truthful answer.

    April 20, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Delegates. Schmelegates.

    Hillary. Nader.

    April 20, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. Kenneth M.

    We might know the baggage in her closet but we have not yet seen the junk in her trunk!

    April 20, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Yes we can Man, Ventura, CA

    This is "good for the party"? How?

    April 20, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Let's Keep it real: We're not changing for NOBODY.

    Hell, the only thing good about Pennsylvania is their hoagie rolls.

    April 20, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Screw all the negative attack ads. It's bullcrap. Vote for Hillary.

    April 20, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. SW

    Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted. Both Clintons are pathological liars and both are shameless.

    April 20, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    This is it: Just keep attacking McCain and Obama until we win !!!

    Hillary and Nader agenda, 2008

    April 20, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. OZ

    Ralph Nader 08'

    April 20, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Let's get right down to it: Screw howard dean and screw all those rules. We just do what we do...drag this fight on and on. And on. (who's gonna stop us? LOL )

    April 20, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  24. Mike Cairo, NY

    They are both unelectable, period.

    April 20, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  25. DA

    Vote your pocket book or wallet and you will know who you need to vote for!!!

    April 20, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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