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. Carmen

    Hillary is trying hard to get Obama to run negative ads so it will make people think she is not doing any campaigning. Hillary Slick Willy is watching you.

    Obama 08

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

    getting real tired of this! people of PA please End it. please don't let conservatives get another 4 years in office. Vote Obama!

    April 20, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. @americans

    hillary is a destroyer – obama is a uniter!

    mcsame is confused – a man that repeats himself twice to make a point should give voters pause for concern!!!

    take your pick!

    Obama '08!!!!

    April 20, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Niel

    Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Jeb Bush- Jeb Bush- Chelsesa Clinton-Chelsea Clinton

    This is what we need.

    April 20, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Susan

    Levi. whats your point. Just do the math. write down the negatives/lies of both and see who has more.

    April 20, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Kristine

    Yep, Obama has certainly playd the liberal media's love fest with him well–no wonder he got so many votes before we knew anything much about him. The coverage of Clinton was and still is even against her and to his benefit...if it looks like like a duck, quacks like a duck, and craps like a duck–it's a duck! Thanks Wolf and co., aen't you so proud to know that you have played a big part in the deception of the American people who have a right to know the details of candidates–especailly at this historic time. I feel like we're in Russia for God sake! Your behavior is dishonorable at best, I'm all done with Complete Nonsense News (CNN).

    April 20, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. Elisabeth

    Hillary is a truthful individual.

    April 20, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Dick in Sioux Falls

    I continue to protest that using one or two words that you've said before in a different context, does not qualify as a duplicate comment!

    April 20, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. Elisabeth

    Mr Obama, I am worried about your true goals.

    April 20, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. Cory

    I really don't care who wins the presidential election. As long as they lower taxes and make the world a better place.

    April 20, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. Glen,

    After all the hype and all the money the only hope the Democrats can give the world is another Jimmy Carter. Thanks for nothing

    April 20, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. sam

    It looks like Hillary is getting really desperate and will throw out any form of negativity she can towards Obama. Leaders bring people up, not tear them down...

    Obama 08!!

    April 20, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. ken

    Google the "Clinton Chronicles" and watch the video and you will see why we don't need or want the Clintons running this country.

    April 20, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. ANGEL in NV


    Obama/Clinton 08 – Clinton/Obama 08

    Have you seen voter turn out!!!!!!!!!

    April 20, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Obama Richardson

    What are the latest polls saying in PA anyway? I'd like to see the results of one taken this weekend.

    April 20, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. melikeyhill

    we need the pope to wash the dynasty curse from America!!! no more bushes or clintons in the white house....no more dynasties!!!!

    April 20, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  17. Mike in Houston

    The most outrageous attacks have been made by Clinton and Obama on the American people whenever those two say that they are ready or qualified to be president.

    April 20, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Patrick U

    Hiillaarryy Cllinnttoon, please drop out of this race. You are detracting us. Thank you, mama, for heeding to this call.

    April 20, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. Marj,Paso Robles, Cal

    HC and BO are the most negative, inept individuals I have ever seen. If either of these idiots get elected, you can expect four years of stupidity.

    May God help us.

    April 20, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. mary

    Why doesn't any article use Obama's middle name? I see they use Hillary's.

    April 20, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. sascha

    The Democrats are really hurting themselves. I am convinced, that McCain will win in the end...

    April 20, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. LaTeef Alpharetta,GA

    Hillary, need to quit this race this week because Obama will win the nomination in this primary election.

    April 20, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  23. jimmy vekmen


    April 20, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. Jerry

    She already found a way to polarized democratic party. I can't wait to see her president. Four more years of cold civil war, way to go girl!

    April 20, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  25. Dmitriy

    So much for Obama's positive campaign. But maybe he just didn't say the right words again.

    April 20, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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