From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
JOHNSTON, IA -- In the spin room after today's debate, Obama adviser David Axelrod said that Obama had told Clinton today that "leadership came from the top" in regards to negative attacks and campaigning.
Axelrod said that the two senators spoke for about 10 minutes today, during which Clinton apologized for the comments made by her New Hampshire co-chair Billy Shaheen, who told the Washington Post that Obama's past cocaine use would make him vulnerable to GOP attacks. "Senator Obama expressed to Senator Clinton it's important for campaigns to send a signal from the top as to what type of campaign they want to run. If you send a signal that negative campaigning is the fun part of campaigns and treat it as a sport, then you are sending a signal down the line that it's all okay. They have to decide if they want to send a different signal and certainly by asking Mr. Shaheen to leave that would be a different signal," Axelrod said.
Axelrod went on to say that leadership in campaigns "flowed from the top down," and Clinton's previous comments that the "fun starts" when candidates begin to attack each other set a tone that allowing negative attacks were okay.
The announcement of Shaheen's resignation came just fifteen to twenty minutes after Axelrod's comments in the spin room. The Obama campaign has benefited from Shaheen's comments in more ways than one -- by 1) showing the Clinton campaign as anxious to tear down their opponents and 2) as a money making tool among their own supporters. David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, sent out an email requesting supporters to donate to demonstrate their disapproval at Shaheen.
Shaheen's comments on Obama's past cocaine use, however, also gave reporters an opening to question Obama's campaign about the extent of his past drug use and how they would respond to Republican attacks on the issue. Regarding Obama's past drug use, Axelrod told reporters today that he only used drugs up until age 20, and that Obama had not sold or shared drugs with friends.
He went on to add that the campaign would effectively respond to Republican attacks by being upfront about Obama's past. "Honesty is how you respond to the attacks. He's been very straight forward about this. This isn't some expose of some vault somewhere. This is something he wrote about in a book 12 years ago."
*** UPDATE *** "It is clear that the politics of false attacks and innuendo are being rejected by the voters from New Hampshire and around the country.
Barack Obama is focusing his campaign on the positive change he is going to bring to America as President," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.