Dueling Appeals On Taxes From Obama, Clinton

Sen. Barack Obama won North Carolina's presidential primary by a wide margin Tuesday, while Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowly won in Indiana.
By Perry Bacon Jr. and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, May 5, 2008

SOUTH BEND, Ind., May 4 -- Two days before critical primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) scolded both Sen. Barack Obama (D) and "elite opinion" Sunday for opposing her proposals to fix the ailing economy, while the senator from Illinois accused her of political pandering.

"There's a big difference between us, and the question is: Who understands what you're going through, and who do you count on being on your side?" Clinton said to several hundred supporters in Fort Wayne. "I believe I have what it takes to stand up and fight for you when you need a president on your side."

Obama appeared to acknowledge that Clinton's populist economic message is finding a receptive audience in Indiana when he called for a second round of government tax rebates. "Let me tell you something, people are really hurting," Obama said during his own appearance in Fort Wayne. "I am here to tell you, you're not on your own. We're in this together."

The two scoured the state before a primary that Obama last month called the "tiebreaker" in the Democratic contest. He is hoping that victories here and in North Carolina would build pressure on Clinton to exit the race for the party's nomination, and both candidates are betting that their rhetoric on the economy -- Obama insisting voters will reject easy answers, Clinton with her proposals for short-term relief -- will give them an edge Tuesday.

The candidates taped appearances on competing Sunday-morning talk shows from Indianapolis, campaigned in Fort Wayne, stopped in towns across the state (Clinton in South Bend, Obama in Elkhart) and returned late in the day to Indianapolis, where they again sparred over gasoline taxes in consecutive speeches at a state Democratic Party dinner.

Sunday was their last full day of campaigning here before Tuesday's vote. Clinton will make two stops on Monday in North Carolina, and Obama has three appearances scheduled. Obama has led by double digits in North Carolina polls for weeks.

In their television appearances, Obama continued to face tough questions about his controversial former pastor, and Clinton was criticized for her aggressive stance toward Iran. But both also renewed their debate over Clinton's proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax for the summer months.

Obama said his previous support of suspending the gas tax in Illinois, when he was a state senator, was a "mistake." He derided Clinton's plan on NBC's "Meet the Press," calling it "a political response to a serious problem that we neglected for decades."

His campaign launched a new television ad labeling the idea a "bogus gas tax gimmick."

Obama said his proposal for a tax cut for the middle class, as part of an economic stimulus package, would be more effective than Clinton's gas tax suspension.

"Look, people do need serious relief," he said. "They are getting hammered. I mean -- people who can't go on job searches because they can't fill up their gas tank. And so, what I've said is, let's accelerate the second half of a tax stimulus proposal that I have put forward that would put, immediately, hundreds of dollars into people's pockets to get through the summer."

Clinton has her own tax-cut proposals that benefit the middle class, but she said the gas tax holiday would be an important short-term measure.

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