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Clinton, Obama Duel Over Readiness

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By Ad Watch
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On the final day before the Pennsylvania primary, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton released an ad that, without naming Sen. Barack Obama, questions his readiness to be president. Hours later, Obama struck back with an ad of his own.

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Clinton's Attack

The Ad: It's the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything -- especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis. Harry Truman said it best: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Who do you think has what it takes?

Analysis: Osama bin Laden has made his first appearance in a Democratic primary ad. While Clinton's commercial never mentions Obama, it picks up on the theme of her now-famous 3 a.m. phone ad: that the world is a dangerous place and her opponent is untested.

The images race from the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor bombing, Cuban missile crisis and long gas lines to one of the al-Qaeda leader, followed by New Orleans under water. The final question -- Who "has what it takes?" -- is intended to sow doubts about a rival who was an Illinois state legislator a little more than three years ago.

The ad's weakness is that some voters may view Clinton, who played no direct role in national security or crisis management as first lady, as not much more experienced than Obama. She also voted to authorize the Iraq war, which many critics say has diverted U.S. efforts against bin Laden. And an ad invoking the world's most notorious terrorist may be viewed as carrying a whiff of desperation.

By airing the ad one day before today's Pennsylvania primary, Clinton is banking on media coverage to carry her message.

Obama's Response

The Ad: Narrator: Who has what it takes to really bring change? To finally take on the special interests -- not take their money. Who made the right judgment about opposing the war and had the courage and character to speak honestly about it? And who in times of challenge will unite us -- not use fear and calculation to divide us.

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