Democratic Candidates Trade Gibes Across Ohio
Monday, March 3, 2008
WESTERVILLE, Ohio, March 2 -- Sen. Barack Obama sharply questioned Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's claims of extensive foreign policy experience Sunday, pushing back against her argument that only she is prepared to handle national security as president as the two raced toward a pair of potentially decisive primary contests.
Obama, nearly crossing paths with his main rival as both Democrats campaigned across central Ohio, said Clinton argues that she has "all this vast foreign policy experience," but she did not read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq.
"We're still waiting to hear Senator Clinton tell us what precise foreign policy experience that she is claiming that makes her prepared to answer that phone call at 3 in the morning," Obama said, to cheers at a town hall meeting here.
Betting the future of her campaign on victories in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, Clinton is closing out her effort with the argument that she would be best prepared to handle an international crisis, even running a provocative ad on the topic. She made that case again on Sunday, blending the argument with a description of herself as a "fighter, a doer and a champion" for low-income workers in this economically stressed region that has seen massive job losses.
"You know, for some people, this election is about how you feel. It's about speeches," Clinton said at a high school near where Obama spoke. "Well, that's not what it's about for me. It's about solutions."
Clinton got a hint on Sunday of the pressure she may face to get out of the race if she fails to make a strong showing on Tuesday and win significantly more delegates than Obama -- an unlikely outcome, given Democratic delegate-allocation rules. It came from a former rival for the nomination, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Richardson said: "I just think that D-Day is Tuesday. We have to have a positive campaign after Tuesday. Whoever has the most delegates after Tuesday, a clear lead, should be, in my judgment, the nominee."
Obama has such a big lead in pledged delegates that there is virtually no way Clinton can overtake him on Tuesday. The best hope for keeping her candidacy alive, advisers acknowledge, is to win the popular vote in the two big states with contests and to break about even in the delegate hunt. Vermont and Rhode Island also will hold primaries on Tuesday.
Richardson, who has not endorsed either Clinton or Obama, warned both candidates about negative campaigning. He was outspoken in his criticism of Clinton's new "ringing phone" ad, which suggests that Obama is not ready to become commander in chief.
"I happen to disagree with that ad that says that Senator Obama is not ready," he said. "He is ready. He has great judgment, an internationalist background."
At a town hall meeting at Westerville Central High School, Obama spent 20 minutes laying out his economic plans, covering topics from bankruptcy reform to middle-class tax cuts to college tuition credits. He later pivoted to foreign policy, delivering his toughest rebuke yet of Clinton's contention that his candidacy is built around little more than his early opposition to the Iraq war, while hers is built on lengthy foreign policy credentials.
Obama rarely mentions Clinton directly in his public remarks, but on Sunday he was both expansive and blunt.