April 20th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
7 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. Gabriel

    Only a few more states now... hang in there, Barack. Don't let her playground antics provoke you!

    April 20, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. gerald strother

    if we can add all over for Clinton

    April 20, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. navywife

    Looks like Hillary is just desperate....can't wait for her to lose so we can concentrate on defeating McTemper.

    April 20, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Bree

    Way to go, Clinton: appear more desperate than ever because the desperate attacks and misleading claims have just been SO successful in you campaign thus far!!

    April 20, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Joe

    Hillary is not a truthful individual. There have been so many lies from her. Sooner or later people start to think about all this. And the conclusion they draw is that the Clintons are either misguided or frauds.

    April 20, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. Kim

    Voters of PA, Please!! Be on the side of History and Victory. Put a stop to twenty years of crooked and inept Clinton/Bush dictatorship. Please PA, END IT NOW!

    April 20, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. levi

    Thank Pope Benedict for bringing some blessings in America, we need that to chase away the curses and divisions that Obama and his pastor has brought upon us.

    April 20, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. zona

    Whether you are an Obama supporter or a Clinton supporter, I think we are all tired of the negativity and nastiness from both sides. I would just like to see both of them stick to their campaign promises and do it in a professional way.

    April 20, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  9. levi

    Thank you Pope Benedict for bringing some blessings in America, we need that to chase away the curses and divisions that Obama and his pastor had brought upon us.

    April 20, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. matt Lyons

    Any democrat will lead our country to dust.

    McCain '08

    April 20, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Matt, CA

    Both Clinton and Obama need to start launching ads against McCain, not each other

    April 20, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. John

    Obama and Hillary have made themselves unelectable with the nonsense that they are continuing.

    McCain will be the next President.

    April 20, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. Lynn in NM

    Hillary, I want no part of your health insurance plan. It's big government that will cost tons of money. You were told this once – shortly after your husband was elected. Guess you never learn.

    April 20, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. margaret walters

    i watch, the debate between, hillary, obama

    but they they gave obama. much more time.than hillary

    but she was great. after watching & lisenlng to rev wright

    a doing revern wrong, such talk an cussing god and !!!!!!!!!

    america .and scard of american flag .thats un american

    keep up the good work hillary . margaret

    April 20, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Martha, Georgia

    Now this is news,A CNN reporter was arrested Friday in Central Park with a small amount of methamphetamine in his pocket, but he avoided jail time by agreeing to undergo drug counseling and therapy.

    April 20, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Sean

    I don't get it- "Clinton/Bush dictatorship"?? The Clinton years were good years and completely opposite the Bush years. Why people lump the two together is beyond me.

    April 20, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. rebecca

    i'm very disappointed. but at the same time, obama would lose completely if he didn't attack hillary. i hope that they lay off after PA because otherwise john mccain might as well take the oath here and now.

    April 20, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. JJ from Arizona

    This is seriously way out of control. I really think this is spilling over into a Hillary in 2012 kinda thing, if you know what I mean.

    April 20, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. Freddy

    At least Obama hasnt lied his way in this campain or deceived people or sling mud.

    April 20, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. shan

    levi...*is crazy*

    April 20, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  21. Daniel Mayinja

    I join in song with Kim (above), for my beloved, adopted land, and make it decisive ...

    April 20, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Unshrub

    Some of these comments shouldn't be so self righteous. What's with this comment about chasing away the curses. Come on...

    April 20, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. NoToHillaryNoToMcCain

    wow! another dynasty in the white house. who exactly is it that's elitist? mcc-old refuses to release his wifes returns because they're also in the $100 million club like the clintons.....who exactly is it that's elitist?

    April 20, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. Daniel Mayinja

    Although to be fair the "Clinton/Bush" years are not exactly a dictatorship ... the "inept" is up for grabs.

    April 20, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Jake, California

    Does Hillary have a religion? I have not heard anything about her church or Mosque or senegouge? Where does she worship?

    I heard her say her grandfather from PA was religious, does that make her religious as well? I'm just wondering!

    April 20, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
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