December 6th, 2007
11:30 AM ET
15 years ago

Going negative a risk in Iowa

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux explains going negative in Iowa caused likely caused the downfall of two presidential candidates in 2004.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the heated rhetoric between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton heats up in Iowa, many political observers are drawing parallels to the bitter fight that played out in the Hawkeye State in 2004 between then-candidates Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt.

Dean and Gephardt were onetime frontrunners in Iowa, but weeks of attacks against each other led both to finish lowdown in the polls, clearing the way for Sen. John Kerry to win the state and eventually the Democratic nomination.

Could the same thing happen to Clinton and Obama? CNN's Suzanne Malveaux takes a look.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Iowa
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Richard Tabuteau, Atlanta, GA

    This story is misleading. Barack Obama has stopped talking about Sen. Clinton by name for over a week now and smartly refuses to get entagled with Sen. Clinton's latest attacks on him. John Edwards has stopped for over two weeks. There is no back and forth between anyone. All there remains is Sen. Clinton throwing mud and using the same tactics she disparaged 10 days ago.

    December 6, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Tim, Washington D.C.

    The Clinton News Network does not differentiate between character attacks and policy attacks? Hillary and Obama will not drag each other down because Hillary is the only one truly being negative, which is why she is losing ground in the polls; people are seeing through her bs as she drags only herself down.

    December 6, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Jonie Iowa

    It is proven over and over in his short time as a senator that Obama doesn't have the nerve to take on tough issues. Notice Obama is ducking votes on abortion and Iran!!! Seeking a trillion-dollar tax hike and raising the retirement age for Social Security!!!! PLAY ATTENTION IOWA! DON’T WASTE YOUR VOTE!
    Obama completely skipped the Senate vote on Iran. But throws mud at ALL the other senators doing their job. Take a look at his public tenure in the Illinois Legislature, where lawmakers can vote "present"?? (If you can believe that), instead of yes or no on a bill. Obama, votes “present" on SEVEN ABORTION MEASURES!!!! Unbelievable! WAKE UP IOWA! The President can't vote 'present.' Nor pick and choose which challenges he will face. This guy is afraid to make ANY decisions. LOOK AT THE FACTS IOWANS.
    IOWANS the world is watching you first! SHOW THAT YOUR ARE INTELLIGENT PEOPLE, Not Americans who would see out this great country for a TV talk show host!!!
    DO NOT WASTE YOUR VOTE ON OBAMA he cannot win in the general election. I vote for him is a vote for the Republican Party

    Madame President of the United States…it's an extraordinary thought. We truly are in a momentous time, where a woman's potential has no limitations," "Hillary Clinton has already proven to a generation of women that there are no limits for success. She is driven by her passion for public service and her belief in the enormous potential of our country. Smart, capable and strong in her convictions, Hillary has transcended the dictates of what is thought to be possible for our time.
    "Hillary is a powerful voice for change as we find our country at an important crossroads. Under her leadership, our country will regain its respect within the global community. She will prioritize issues of global climate change, universal healthcare and rebuilding a strong economy. After 8 long years, the public will once again have faith in their government.
    "Another former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, 'In government, in business, and in the professions there may be a day when women will be looked upon as persons. We are, however, far from that day as yet.' More than 50 years later 'that day' is now upon us…and Hillary Clinton is ready to shatter through that glass ceiling for all women."

    December 6, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Jessica,Newton,Iowa

    Were they not planted. Susan malveaux is calculating too. Did you see her asking questions in Vegas. She is bais as Wolf. These people from their face can tell they don't mean what they are saying. I find Obama telling us how he is different from Hillary. He is not negative at all. Now CNN has moved its campaign for Hillary from the CNN Center to the grounds of Iowa. CNN we get you but please don't tell us who to support!

    December 6, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. Ryan, New Jersey

    The difference is that anyone who actually takes a moment to listen to what Obama has to say, immediately realizes he's the real deal. I don't think anyone comes away from Hillary with a warm and fuzzy feeling about her sincerity.

    December 6, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. Aaron, Savannah, GA

    I still feel confident in Hillary Clinton.

    I want the Clinton's back on Capitol Hill, where the economy boomed and America prospered in money making.

    Once she takes the dem. nomination, I believe Hillary will only flourish over her Republican rival.

    December 6, 2007 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. Keith, Chicago


    Can you give an example of "heated rhetoric" and "negative" comments that Obama has said about Clinton. I would guess, no, because there hasn't been any. Clinton has been slinging mud and making lots of rash, baseless accusations against Obama...whereas Obama has been focusing on presenting ideas on how he would help improve our country as President.

    Obama has not been engaging in a "bitter fight" with Clinton as you claim – he has been completing ignoring her recent attacks. I would appreciate it if CNN just stuck to the facts as opposed to manufacturing storylines that they feel will give them better ratings.

    December 6, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. Cathy Turtletown Tn

    It's amazing to me how people can see and hear the same story and think it says two different things.
    As far as thio story is concerned I hope Obama and Clinton cancel each other out so we can start fresh. The media got them the two top spots anyway, not the people!

    December 6, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. AConcernedCitizen, IA

    Obama said "Triangulating just wont do".

    Is he talking about himself or Hillary? Is that attack?

    I heard Obama's answer on license for illegal immigrants on the debate. Was that not triangulating?

    Only blind Obama supporters answer! (Because American needs fluff and hatred and holier than thou lazy people).

    December 6, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. josh

    It doesn't matter... the repubicans will win.

    December 6, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Scott, Madison, WI

    One big difference being that out of the four candidates mentioned only one actually is appealing as a president. (Hint: It isn't HRC.) And ... he isn't going negative and attacking like a cornered animal. Just counterbalancing all the Clinton machine tactics with direct, thoughtful responses and a long-needed bit of poise. The other two mentioned were desperate, mishandled attempts by the Dems to put anyone but GWB back in office.

    December 6, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  12. lianette

    To La'Kitgun, NH. Good reading! Clinton mean business here. Clinton is always looking for ways to help people at crucial time. Clinton will not waste time to show to the people of the United States that she will do everything in her power to rebuild this country. She showed that. Despite the arrogant and bad-mouthing of the other candidates, she maintained her focus of her plans for us. But at the same token, she needs to fight back. Iowans, and all other States understand her. To be a President, you need to be tough and fight back for your principle. Clinton is ready to serve our country and work on day one. She was there before and she understands the pressure.

    If you have been following the campaign, the other candidates especially Obama and Edwards were after her and until now. clinton concentrated talking about what the Republicans have done for our country. Clinton just talked about her plans while the other candidates kept bad-mouthing her. They were so worried that Clinton keep her ahead of them. What can I say? These guys are desperate that's all. People like her. Clinton is experienced period. Clinton will prevail because US is ready for a woman president.

    December 6, 2007 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  13. clark

    Boycott all media channels talking Politics and making you vote,there brainwashing people,with there twisted rehtoric.

    People In the end your vote,will count,
    US American's aren't falling for this crap anymore we know who to vote for look on there sites study the canidiate and what that person will do for you in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,dont vote for someone who tells you to vote for them

    Its YOUR OWN and Personal Descision.not anyone else's
    this happens every Campaign year they want a race,well that is what divides us,we know better ,its your pencil tip in the box,for you not anyone.

    do not listen to media politics,shut them off,with there twisted words

    December 6, 2007 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  14. Jared, Phoenix, AZ

    A lot of pundits use Howard Dean's fall in 2004 as a reason why, this or that, will effect this campaign...

    There was one reason Howard Dean lost the nomination: Every major newspaper in the country ran front page stories titled "Howard Dean goes insane," or something to that effect. In reference to his rally so loud you couldn't hear him speak.

    The press destroyed him, plain and simple. The Democratic establishment didn't want him (and still doesn't) despite the voters... and the press happily aided them in accusing him of insanity for the 4 days leading up to the Iowa caucus.

    I'm not saying that negative campaigning won't affect this race... but please, stop using the ditry little stunt from 2004, as proof for anything except the media's capacity to sling mud.

    December 6, 2007 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  15. Markie Bee, Sacramento, Calif.

    Ah LaKitgum, like I've debunked your BS in other postings and answered your challenge for proof of Obama's record on the's another little tidbit for your cranium. Obama spoke about the subprime mess almost three months ago during a great speech on what he plans to do with the economy as the next president. He addressed the subprime mess here:

    Obama cited the subprime mortgage crisis as an example of this problem. "In theory, this should have allowed mortgage lending to be less risky and more diversified," he said. "But as certain lenders and brokers began to see how much money could be made, they began to lower their standards... Far too many continued to put their own short-term gain ahead of what they knew the long-term consequences would be when those rates exploded. Those consequences are now clear: nearly 2.5 million homeowners could lose their homes."

    Obama said there are four steps the country needs to take prevent future problems: (1) create more disclosure and accountability in the housing market by updating the current mortgage rules to prevent fraud and enact tough penalties against lenders who knowingly act in bad faith; (2) restore trust in the rating agencies by investigating the relationship and business practices of rating agencies and their clients; (3) fix a lack of transparency problem in other areas in the market by teaching consumers about the risk involved with credit cards; and (4) ask mortgage institutions to help people who are trying to sell or refinance their homes.

    Invoking Franklin Roosevelt, Obama called for everyone, "from CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers," to work together because "we all have a stake in each other's success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers." He said the nation needs "another moment that requires, in FDR's words, a re-appraisal of our values as a nation.". (source:

    Hillary is just now getting around to discussing the problem? Once again she follows not leads. That's why she released her health care plan too after Edwards and Obama.

    December 6, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. Sky Pete Wash, DC

    It's one thing to go negative and state that another candidate:

    + voted for this legislation incorrectly
    + plan or policy is flawed for some reason
    + change in stated opinion on some topic
    + over emphasized some aspect of their Resume
    + experience deficiency

    than it is to:

    – plan or policy is flawed therefore their character is flawed.
    – understated the longevity of their personal ambition.
    – did some act that you've done as well ( the PAC money issue )
    – appearance of dirty tricks

    Obama may have gone Negative but Hillary got stuck on MEAN. In a campaign

    December 6, 2007 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  17. moose1648, anchorage, alaska

    Hillary is no howard dean or gephard, and john edwards is no john kerry. John Edwards will go nowhere but down.

    When hussein obama threw a few punches first, it is a fool not to punch back hard and to set the record straight. Ohama needs to be exposed for his negative campaigning and dirty tricks (push polls), as he would not win the nomination based on merits.

    December 6, 2007 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  18. Amy, Wa

    "Obama is not running a negative campaign against anyone, CNN! He isn't even responding to her attacks! Get your story straight!
    Posted By spraynardkruger : December 6, 2007 12:24 pm "

    Too bad you have such a short memory. Plus, listen more carefully, there are overt and covert attacks.

    There is nothing new that standards and expectations are always higher for women.

    Hillary will win because Americans are practical people, at the end of the day will choose the candidate who is more realistic about issues.

    December 7, 2007 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  19. Jessica M., El Paso, TX

    Calling someone triangulating, basically implying that they are a liar, cheat, corrupt, that they govern by polls and not by conviction, suggesting that their foreign policy experience basically amounted to having "tea" with foreign dignitaries and picking out the White House china,... are these not considered attacks?????

    These are the attacks that Obama and Edwards have made against Hillary. And you know what, people were starting to believe the lies. Which is why she has every right to defend herself.

    And another thing (even though everyone one focused on the kindergarten thing and did not look at the overall message) her "attacks" on Obama are actually TRUE.

    Obama's doesn't have ANY foreign experience, no matter how you Obama lovers spin it. Facts are facts! And no, living abroad as a child in Indonesia from age 6-10 does not amount to foreign experience....what a joke!

    His health care plan is NOT UNIVERSAL. Time after time, expert after expert, they have all come out and said so. To say that it is, is a LIE.

    He HAS missed 80% percent of the votes in the US Senate ,some of which have been extremely crucial. He also either missed a lot of votes or said "present" (which is a cop out) as an Illinois senator. He didn't take a stand on these issues because he didn't want compromise his possibilities for the presidency which is a cowardly approach if you ask me.

    I can go on and on. Which leads me to my final point. Look at the differences in the "attacks" between Obama and Clinton and you will see Obama's attacks are character cheap shots that can't be substantiated. That's because he, himself, and his vouch for the presidency, are just plain, empty RHETORIC!!!

    December 7, 2007 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  20. Jessica M., El Paso, TX

    Surrealist in Fort Myers,
    That was one of the most beautifully well-written and articulated post I have read in a while. I completely agree.

    December 7, 2007 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  21. Earl, Ohio

    "OBAMA HUSSEIN BARACK WHAT EVER HIS NAME IS the one and John Edward who started mud sliding against Hillary.

    It seems so funny John Eward and Obama don't find any policy different between them, Oh God! what i am thinking, both don't have any policy, except attacking Hillary!


    Posted By jmaya, iowa : December 6, 2007 1:51 pm"


    You expect us to take your argument seriously, when you don't even know the correct name of 1st and 3rd place poll positions in Iowa? I won't even touch the first part of your post, because it is so moronic and childish. Folks like yourself are the reason why the Iowa caucuses need to be scrapped as always being 'first in the nation'.

    December 7, 2007 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
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