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. Carl Sloan

    For someone who's claim is to be in the "solutions" business, she's mad at Obama because he criticizes one of her SOLUTIONS? Ironic.

    April 20, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Bubba

    Both are politicians. Both lie, have serious baggage, don't play well with others and are insufferable. I can not vote for either.

    April 20, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. John Smith

    Thanks to any PA voter who is determined not to return an "impeached family and president" back to our Nation's White House.

    April 20, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  4. outrageous

    here is western pa, one of obama's desciples wrote that John MCCain was lapdancing with a group of catholic nuns at their motherhouse. McCain wasn't even in the area.

    April 20, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Victoria

    One more thing, RIGHT ON KIM!!!!

    OBAMA 08 & 12

    April 20, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. Josh

    Old politics? New Politics? I'm confused.. who are you Obama??

    April 20, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. Jerry

    These two remind me of an old saying about the pot calling the kettle black!

    April 20, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Clintonout

    HillBillry is the worst of the three in term of moral, integrity… It is to the point that every time when she starts saying: “I remember when … (recalling her past)”. I’d think: “Gosh! Not another one.”

    April 20, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Amy

    Please PA vote Obama and put this woman out of the contest so we can prepare for November.

    April 20, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. frank

    I used to be a Clinton supporter, but I like Obama for one thing – he is more forthright and tries to avoid "mis-speaking". America needs a leader they can trust!

    April 20, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Please


    Don't put the Pope into America mess!!! The Clintons and Bush need more blessings than Obama.

    April 20, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. kathy

    OBAMA is not a truthful individual. There have been so many lies from him. Sooner or later people start to think about all this. And the conclusion they draw is that OBAMA is either misguided or a fraud.

    April 20, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. dAnnE


    I don't understand how you can start out a sentence talking about the Pope and end it with such unwelcoming language. I respect and understand the support you have for your candidate and I think that if people stuck to highlighting that candidate's attributes the American people would benefit more.

    April 20, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  14. George

    After the last debate has exposed Obama as traditional politician who avoids the questions and attacks those that question him the tide in our state of PA is clear.....voting for Hillary. As we say the bloom is off the rose.....

    April 20, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. Alex from IL

    Oh god, PA, just end it! if you vote for obama and he wins she'll probably drop out (as he's 163-171 pledged delegates ahead) and we can start healing.

    April 20, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. shadow

    Thank the Pope?? Are you serious? The Pope and his church have done more harm than Rev Wright could do in a lifetime.

    April 20, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. colo

    Go right ahead, keep my comment in moderation CNN
    One negative comment about Obama is all you can take in one day.

    April 20, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. damien

    Hillary lies about sniper fire and foreign policy experience. She can't be trusted.

    April 20, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Lovely in VA

    Just keep telling the truth Obama!

    April 20, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Sarah

    oh hush with the obama and his pastor nonsense. It's unnecessary and melodramatic. Issues are only issues so long as people do not just let them rest!

    April 20, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. George, Covington, KY

    I am glad Senator Obama has chosen to stay above the fray and run a positive campaign. Remember, his negative attack ads are attacking Washington, not Senator Clinton. What a hypocrite??? Can we please hold Senator Obama accountable at some point? He isn't accountable for his actions OR his words...

    April 20, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. Tanis

    Vote Hillary Clinton 08-–if you don't the country will be run by an old man (McCain) or a little boy (Obama) taking this country on a one way trip to hell.

    April 20, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. Antoinette


    Seems like you are the hypocrite

    If you cant take the heat.......

    Besides, not his fault that YOU lied and then admittd on the debates that you didnt tell the truth

    So was that a misspeak or a lie

    You choose

    Besides, an Obama supporter made a statement about your LIE, no him

    April 20, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. EJ - Ohio

    Oh please don't bring the Pope into this, levi.

    April 20, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. kc

    Request to PA voters.
    Please use your power to vote for change. Hillary and McCaan will not bring the chage we all very badly need for our beloved country.

    April 20, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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