From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
CALIFORNIA, Pa. -- Is Barack Obama a hypocrite? Hillary Clinton wants voters to think so.
For months, the one-time frontrunner has been saying her rival is about
talk not action and equating his fiery rhetoric, his campaign promises,
in fact, his entire candidacy to "just words." She has said her
opponent gives speeches while she offers solutions and aides often
point to what they see as inconsistency between his proclaimed
"politics of hope" and his hits against their candidate on the stump.
On Saturday, some 15 months into the campaign, Clinton boiled all those
arguments down to a simple statement when she briefly touched on a new
Obama ad slamming her healthcare plan -- an issue she had spoken about
earlier in the day -- and then went further.
"He is attacking me with a new ad that he just put up, because I do
cover everyone, with more misleading information," Clinton said at the
fourth stop on a long day of intense campaigning. "You know, he always
says in his speeches that he's running a positive campaign and then in
his campaign does the opposite."
The New York senator sees health care as "one of the defining issues" between her and Obama.
Clinton often calls her colleague from Illinois a "good man" and a friend, but as her husband noted on the trail this week, politics is a contact sport. Yesterday was a case in point, marked by increasingly bitter back-and-forth accusations and attacks between the two campaigns, as they fight it out in the final days before the April 22 vote here. Polls show Clinton ahead, but Obama has been pouring money into the state in recent weeks.
The latest issue to be highlighted last evening by the Clinton campaign is a conference call hosted by Obama surrogates that questioned Clinton's "moral authority" to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, because she had lied about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia and then joked about it on Jay Leno. A Clinton camp memo called it the "most outrageous attack of the campaign."
"A major theme of Sen. Obama on the stump is that Hillary Clinton is running a negative campaign based on 'slash-and-burn politics' and that he represents a break from that kind of politics," Communications Director Howard Wolfson said in the memo. "In fact, in just the last 48 hours, Sen. Obama has flooded airwaves, radio, phone lines and mailboxes with negative and false attacks against Hillary. This unprecedented barrage coincides with a weak debate performance and Sen. Obama's slide in the daily Gallup poll."
The most recent Gallup Tracking Poll shows Clinton with a one-point lead over Obama nationally, her first over him in the poll in about a month. The margin of error for the polls is +/- 3 percentage points.
The former first lady appeared at California University here in the western part of the state with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Rep. Jack Murtha and Miss Pennsylvania LauRen Merola -- who noted that she was also a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Merola announced her endorsement of the senator in her brief remarks. (Note: While Merola is not a superdelegate, the campaign has announced the endorsement of four coveted supers in the last two days.)
The day began with standard stump speeches in which Clinton talked about Pennsylvanians' chance to pick a president, using language similar to that with which she closed the Iowa campaign. She also spoke generally about the need for a president who is a fighter.
"The job of a leader is to bring people together to solve problems but to understand that sometimes we have to fight to get the political will and the votes," she said at a high school in West Lawn. "So I think it's about time we had a president again who would fight for you."
In California, Clinton talked about being the best prepared to go again McCain, and earlier in West Chester, she stressed the importance of picking a nominee who can withstand the pressures of the job.
"Usually the best to determine who can withstand the incredible pressures of a political campaign, which believe me, when you get into the general election and when you get into the White House, the stresses and pressures of the general election and the job are overwhelming, and we know that we've gotta have a president who ready on day one," she told the crowd gathered outside a fire station.
Clinton had one more stop to go last night and planned stops in Bethlehem, Johnstown and University Park, Pa., Sunday, and in Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia on Monday.