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Clinton turns up heat in Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday unleashed her most forceful criticism of her Democratic rival to date, angrily waving a negative mailer he sent to Ohio voters and blaring: “Shame on you, Barack Obama.”
“Enough with the speeches and the big rallies,” she said in Cincinnati, demanding: “Meet me in Ohio. Let’s have a debate about your tactics.”
Mr. Obama, indeed, was on his way to Ohio when Mrs. Clinton challenged him to meet her there. But she soon left the state, heading first to New Orleans then to Houston before her planned overnight in Washington — a dizzying schedule that suggests she will fight for every vote despite facing an uphill climb.
They will debate Tuesday in Cleveland, and the Clinton press conference, replayed on TV endlessly on a slow news day, signals she will aggressively battle the new front-runner. She will then head into the March 4 primaries that could be her last stand after 11 straight losses.
Speaking to reporters here, Mr. Obama of Illinois doubted the authenticity of her outrage since the mailers in question have been circulating and weeks ago provoked response from her campaign aides.
“I’m puzzled by the sudden change in tone unless these were just brought to her attention. It makes me think there’s something tactical about her getting so exercised this morning,” he said. “The notion that somehow we’re engaging in nefarious tactics … is pretty hard to swallow.”
Mrs. Clinton, dressed in bright red and vowing she would continue her candidacy, said a voter handed her the mailers on the rope line after a rally and characterized them as “false” attacks that have her “deeply disappointed.”
The mailers — about her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement and her health care plan — underscore two major issues in this state that boasts many blue-collar and union voters.
“We have consistently called him on it. It has been discredited. It is blatantly false, and yet he continues to spend millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods,” Mrs. Clinton said.
The Obama mailer, sent earlier this month, states, “Mrs. Clinton believes NAFTA was ‘a boon’ for the American economy.” The “boon” quote comes from a graphic that appeared with a September 2006 Newsday story, a word choice the paper has since said should have been clearer, though it stood by its characterization of her position. Newsday also said the Obama ad is “misleading.”
Mrs. Clinton yesterday reiterated her position to “revise and reform NAFTA.”
The health care mailer — at least three weeks old — features a couple sitting at the table that accuses his rival of wanting to “force” families to buy insurance even if they can’t afford it.
“Punishing families who can’t afford health care to begin with just doesn’t make sense,” it states.
Mr. Obama defended the mailers as “accurate,” and added the NAFTA one reached voters before Newsday published the clarification.
By Matt Kibbe
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