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. Angela

    Looks like the outrageous attacks dont stop with the candidates, but spill over into the voting base.

    I am amazed.

    Why dont we just do our research [versus chewing on spoon fed garbage, read and VOTE!

    April 20, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Steve Reker

    – The Clintons are to distroy Obama & the Party

    Could the Nation take 8 more years of " bill " in the oval office
    What are you People thinking ?

    – Steve

    April 20, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Bill Young

    I wonder if CNN is going to talk about the attacks on the American public in regards to the news in the NY Times that they are using "analyst" that are Bush spokesmodels.

    So busted.

    April 20, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. yolie in texas


    April 20, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Mike d.

    Pennsylvania, this is in your hands. Please END THIS NOW!

    April 20, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  6. bp

    We are all on the same team! Please remember that!

    April 20, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. Trev

    Yes, Obama is soooooooooooo poor. Elitism is in one's heart, not one's pocketbook. Arugula anyone?

    April 20, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. charles

    Clinton seem to have a lot of GOP support, is she really a republican in democrats clothing?, May she will be McBush's vice pres.

    April 20, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Ben, MD

    Pennsylvanians! Please put an end to this nasty battle and help the country win in November. Everyday that this goes on we loose some of our chance. PLEASE!


    April 20, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  10. Paula in WI

    Even the Pope says we need HOPE !!!

    April 20, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Jim

    Um, Kim... are you serious!? Bill Clinton was a "dictator"??? You are a nutbar.

    April 20, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. mickey

    Now Hillary is blaming MoveOn.org for her second place in the race...google "Hillary blames activists" for a tape of her comments! She is running out of people to blame!

    April 20, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. Jacqueline, NY

    Hillary has to attack, this is her last chance. I think she will lose PA or win by a very small margin. People are sick and tired of her.

    April 20, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. Jacqueline, NY

    She has a fraud trial on April 23. Why is the press not reporting this. The Huffing Post is where I got the information from.

    April 20, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. Grant McLachlan

    I am really getting tired of Hillary's attacks against Obama, and I'm a

    Obama all the way!

    April 20, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  16. truth stands

    yes he will bless america and promote his sex offenders!! those red shoes are his alibi! americans have it coming to them hillary will be the next president.

    April 20, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. bradley Comfort

    Please at least put a more flattering picture of Hillary with this story. I know CNN is biased, but you don't have to make it so obvious.

    April 20, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. mr. america

    Barack Obama lies about John McCain.... he twists the truth like Bush, we are all tired of that.

    April 20, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. mike35

    Come on guys !...leave Hillary alone ; she is NOT a LIAR

    She just doesn't TELL the TRUTH.

    April 20, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. Ben

    Bosnia and many other stories are fake...Hillary's strategies have messed her up!

    April 20, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Brian

    Let's not solve problems vote for Hillary or McCain!

    We love War and Deficits!

    April 20, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. p. davins

    America need Obama rightnow before is too late
    America most get up now before is too late.

    clinton and mcCain is nothing but oud political doom
    thy have no good new, can;t mericans get get?

    April 20, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. IndyPendent

    Hillary Clinton IS the leader we need. Enough said!

    April 20, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. Newman

    Go Obama, you're going to win PA! Keep rallying Philly and Pitt! May the Pope's blessings be upon you! Obama '08

    April 20, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. unfinished1

    Hillary uses negative ads and speech to tear down her opponent (and ultimately the Democrat party), and then whines and cries when he speaks negatively about her platform. She and her husband are pathetic.

    April 20, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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