Obama Tries to Hold Off Favored Clinton in Pa.

Sen. Barack Obama drew enthusiastic crowds Saturday on a train tour from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. Video by Jacqueline Refo/washingtonpost.com
By Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 20, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, Apr. 19 -- Sen. Barack Obama launched an array of attacks in the final weekend before the Pennsylvania primary, hoping to regain momentum and increase pressure on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After a six-week stretch featuring the kind of intensive campaigning not seen since the Iowa caucuses, Clinton is favored to win Tuesday's contest, but both camps are working furiously to top expectations. Clinton is counting on a decisive victory here to keep her candidacy alive, while Obama is outspending his rival by a huge margin with the goal of limiting her showing or stealing an eleventh-hour victory.

As Obama spent Saturday on a whistle-stop tour through eight cities, his campaign began airing two television spots that are among the most sharply negative he has used in the protracted nominating battle.

"The fact is, she has a different idea about what is at stake in this election than I do," Obama said at a stop in Lancaster. "She just wants to change political parties. I want to change the way politics is done in Washington."

While the senator from Illinois was seeking a knockout punch, Clinton was using her own hard-hitting tactics over the weekend, hoping that a big win Tuesday would give pause to hundreds of undecided superdelegates who are poised to determine the eventual nominee.

Her campaign was making automated phone calls to voters criticizing Obama's vote for the "Bush-Cheney energy plan" and another criticizing his health-care plan.

She also targeted Obama's reputation for rhetorical flourish during a morning appearance in West Chester, saying, "I don't want to just show up and give one of these whoop-de-do speeches and just kind of get everybody whipped up. . . . I want everybody thinking about what we want to do starting on Tuesday."

"We have got to realize our future really depends on who the next president is, this is not a throwaway election," she added.

One of Obama's new ads targets Clinton's proposal for health-care reform, with a narrator saying, 'Hillary Clinton's attacking, but what's she not telling you about her health-care plan? It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it." Clinton's campaign says the plan would provide sufficient subsidies to make health-care coverage affordable.

The other draws from the steady stream of newspaper endorsements Obama has won in Pennsylvania to both boost his message of change and assail Clinton, quoting among others an editorial in Scranton's Times-Tribune that says she "would further the deep divisiveness" in the country.

Clinton, who was on her own five-city campaign swing Saturday, pushed back at a stop in York, calling the health-care ad "curious" and saying, "Instead of attacking the problem, he chooses to attack my solution."

In the more than six weeks since Clinton kept her campaign going forward with primary victories in Texas and Ohio, the candidates have both endured grueling schedules and numerous setbacks. Obama delivered a well-received speech on race in Philadelphia last month after a firestorm was created by the controversial comments of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. More recently, he has faced a constant stream of questions about comments he made at a San Francisco fundraiser, characterizing some in economically hard-hit small towns as "bitter" people who "cling" to religion and guns.

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