From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and Domenico Montanaro
The Obama campaign is stepping up the rhetoric. Campaign Manager David Plouffe went so far as to call Hillary Clinton the "most secretive politician in America today."
The tough talk underscored not only the negative shift in tone of the Obama campaign in the past 24 hours, but just how contentious this fight for the nomination is becoming.
Part of what the Obama campaign would like the focus to be on is ethics -- something adviser David Axelrod said they would be glad to have a debate over. But the Obama campaign may be a victim of time, since an argument on ethics could be tough to steer with the ongoing Rezko trial.
"I think that you know Sen. Clinton has talked a lot about disclosure in the last few days," Plouffe told reporters. "Sen. Clinton is the most secretive politician in America today. This has been a pattern throughout her career of the lack of disclosure."
Echoing Axelrod, Plouffe said the campaign would be more than willing to tangle with the Clintons, appearing to suggest that if needed they would raise issues like Whitewater that plagued the Clintons in the 90s.
"As it relates to ethics and transparency," Plouffe said, "we're surprised that they would want to have an extended conversation about contributors and land deals and ethics issues. I don't think that's a lengthy conversation that's probably going to work out very well for them.
"So we are obviously not going to allow these attacks to go unanswered, and we think things like who has the strongest ethics, who has the chance to really bring about reform, who's going to be the most open with the American people that that's a real distinction," he said.
He added that because the Clinton campaign couldn't win on pledged delegates, it would try to devise "alternative nomination strategies." He added that the Obama campaign would fight back and "raise questions on things like disclosure, like ethics, like foreign policy."
He added that Clinton "exaggerated her experience and can't name anything she's done."
"The only thing she talks about, by the way, is a speech she gave in China," Plouffe said. "She criticizes us for giving a speech. There's an exaggeration there. Her experience, they believe, is just conferred on her; we have to prove ours somehow. She is not a candidate with deep experience on these matters."