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Clinton Steps Up Attacks on Obama

In the battle for Wisconsin, Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are accusing each other of plagiarism. Jim Axelrod reports. Video by CBSNEWS.com

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Longtime advocates of campaign finance reform sent Obama a letter last week expressing "deep concern" that he would back away from the financing system. At the same time, several left-wing blogs urged Obama to "break the pledge," arguing that he should do nothing to cede the fundraising advantage that Democrats appear to have gained heading into the general election.

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The candidate's advisers said yesterday that his pledge came before anyone realized how explosive his fundraising effort would become. Reports due to the FEC this week will show that Obama raised $32 million in January, almost triple what Clinton raised. Nearly all of Obama's total came via the Internet.

"The outpouring from small donors has been unprecedented and perhaps unexpected, and I would not want to do anything to deny those donors the chance to participate [in the general election], regardless of who the Democratic nominee is," said Alan D. Solomont, a longtime Democratic fundraiser who is a member of Obama's national finance team. "To be blunt, the ability of Democrats to raise money from both small donors and others is a significant competitive advantage."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said yesterday that he considers the entire discussion premature, given the tough, unresolved battle for the party's nomination.

To both campaigns, the race in Wisconsin has emerged as a critical steppingstone to the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas, as well as a fight for the state's 74 pledged delegates.

As Clinton crisscrossed Wisconsin yesterday, she returned to what has become a central theme of her retooled, sharper-edged campaign, saying at one point: : "There's a difference between speeches and solutions, between talk and action."

Speaking to reporters last night, Clinton was asked about her campaign's accusation of plagiarism against Obama. She said she had no idea what impact it will have on Tuesday's vote. "I leave that to all of you to figure out," she said, then added: "Facts are important. I'm a facts person. If your whole candidacy is based on words, it should be your own words."

Obama had borrowed Patrick's turn of phrase during the speech in Milwaukee. "Don't tell me words don't matter," he said. " 'I have a dream.' Just words? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' Just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' Just words? Just speeches?"

Patrick used a nearly identical formulation during his 2006 campaign for governor, when he was drawing fire from his Republican opponent, who said his stylish speechmaking disguised a lack of substance.

At a titanium plant in Niles, Obama also noted that Clinton seemed to borrow lines from him, including his signature rallying cry "Fired up! Ready to go!"

That does not mean her seriousness should be questioned, Obama said.

"When Senator Clinton says, 'it's time to turn the page' in one of her stump speeches or says she's 'fired up and ready to go,' " Obama said, "I don't think that suggests that she's not focused on the issues she's focused on."

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