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. Mark

    PA, please send the Clintons back to the primordial ooze from where they were spawned. They are corrupt and power mad.

    April 20, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Howard Dean needs to shut his friggin pie hole. Let this fight drag on.

    Hillary fighters for America.

    April 20, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  3. Proud American

    Hillary stay in the race if you choose to but please stick to the issues. Thats what we Americans want and deserve.

    April 20, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Erika in OHIO

    Hillary Flip-Flops on MoveOn.org. Check out Meet the Press for her OWN WORDS!

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

    The DNC (and Howard [Dean] the coward) are spineless. They can't enforce anything. Screw them. Let this fight drag on.

    April 20, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. At this point.....

    Enough already!

    Note to undecided voters: If the math and the possibility is against Hillary and the fact that she must win the next 10 elections by 65% to break even with Obama, I would ask that you not throw your vote away and cast your vote for Obama as we must have a united Democratic party!

    April 20, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. CT Chriss

    "Yes, yes, yes," she said when pressed about Obama's electability during a campaign ... debate

    Yes he can.

    Yes he will.

    Yes WE will.

    Obama '08

    April 20, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. joe

    I guess hypocrite Obama is just politics as usual...but of course that's because it is Clinton's fault and we are all racist too.

    April 20, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Dan

    I can only hope that the voters of PA will vote for Obama and finally end this nasty race.

    April 20, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Sarah Smith

    Please! draw a parallel between Hillary

    and these women from the Polygamist camp in TX!

    Their VALUES are SIMILAR! (if NOT the SAME!)

    April 20, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Dave

    Clinton's a goon. Fortunately, she's already lost.

    April 20, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    CNN dont keep me awaiting in moderation:

    What is the Pope doing here??? Doesn't he know this is election season? What? He thinks all Americans are Catholic? How dum. DO us a favor, stay in the Vatican and let su Americans continue to watch our beloved Hillary. Period.

    Please post.

    April 20, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Is the Pope running for president too? Is he on the campaign trail? What is he doing? The spotlight needs to be on Hillary... not HIM.

    Get a clue, CNN.

    April 20, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. Monica, Texas

    Howard Dean....This is no longer good for the party. It needs to end or we might as well just hand things over to McCain. You know it is getting bad when you have Mitt trying to take a few sucker punches....lol

    April 20, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Senior Moment

    CNN--you are definitely censoring the posts from readers-shame on you. If you can't be honest-get out of the business.

    April 20, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Demama

    Obama and Clinton are BOTH better choices than McSame.

    Chime in if you're willing to make the following pledge:

    I solemnly swear that I will vote for WHICHEVER democrat is on the ballot in November.

    April 20, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Zoinks

    Obama, No Drama.

    April 20, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. senthilkumar

    both Hillary & Obama lost my vote.


    April 20, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. Jim

    Oh, let's also not forget that Hillary so-called "INEVITABLE" campaign has run out of eligible donors and money, is lagging in popular vote, delegates, states won, money raised....

    All because she thought she'd be the nominee BY FEBRUARY. What a pompous jerk.

    Hillary's campaign is run into the ground just the same way Bush's Iraq war has been: they are both QUAGMIRES.

    April 20, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. E Bean

    I wish people would get it right. When Bill was running it was Billary. With Hillary runnig it's now Hillbilly.

    April 20, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Gigi

    No matter what the Clintons campain can say, Americans chose already their President. We are tired of old fashion politics.

    Obama for President!

    April 20, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. Scott from Michigan

    I can't wait till November and all this is over.

    April 20, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. christi

    Pay attention to the news in IRAQ – The Iraqi government is ordering the US military to stand down.

    McCain – why don't you tell us again how the surge is working.

    CNN – shame on you for always "reporting" on the tit-for-tat stuff.

    April 20, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. Ann

    Nothing is more disgusting than Obama's politics. You cannot even characterize it as old or new. He is running an American idol contest not a campaign.

    April 20, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. Daniel, Loganville. Ga.

    Democrates UNITE!!!!

    April 20, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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