- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

PITTSBURGH — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made her closing argument for the pivotal Pennsylvania primary tomorrow with a TV ad that implies that her Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, is not ready for “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,” the ad’s baritone narrator says over a video montage of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, newspaper headlines from the 1929 stock market crash and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

“Harry Truman said it best: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator says. “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Mrs. Clinton told voters at a rally on Pittsburgh’s Market Square that she was “very comfortable in that kitchen making decisions and standing up for you.”

At the rally here and at a morning event in Scranton, Mrs. Clinton did not mention by name her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination and avoided the bare-knuckle attacks that defined both campaigns over the weekend. But she drove home the argument that Mr. Obama’s stirring oratory and message of hope do not measure up to her record and experience.

The Obama campaign accused Mrs. Clinton of being a fear monger, and said the ad reminded voters that Mrs. Clinton voted in 2002 to go to war in Iraq, which diverted the U.S. military from the mission in Afghanistan and “allowed Osama bin Laden to escape and regenerate his terrorist network.”

“It’s ironic that she would borrow the president’s tactics in her own campaign and invoke bin Laden to score political points,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said. “We already have a president who plays the politics of fear, and we don’t need another.”

He noted that Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, had warned voters to beware of scare tactics in campaigns.

The campaign circulated a 2004 quote by Mr. Clinton: “Now one of Clinton’s Laws of Politics is this: If one candidate’s trying to scare you and the other one’s trying to get you to think, if one candidate’s appealing to your fears and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope. That’s the best.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Geoff Garin insisted that the ad was part of a strategy to strike a positive note on the eve of the vote.

“It is an entirely positive ad,” Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters in a conference call. “It states why Hillary Clinton is the right person to be president of United States right now.”

After Mr. Obama complained about a barrage of sharp questions put to him in a debate Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Clinton campaign has been suggesting that the senator from Illinois isn’t tough enough for the White House.

The senator from New York edged up her lead in Pennsylvania polls over the weekend, inching toward the decisive win that will help her stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But Mr. Obama, the national Democratic front-runner, is fighting for a strong finish in Pennsylvania that will cripple Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and virtually assure him of the nomination.

Mr. Obama predicted that Mrs. Clinton would win in Pennsylvania but by a margin too small to justify staying in the race.

“I’m not predicting a win,” he told Pittsburgh radio station KDKA. “I’m predicting it’s going to be close and that we are going to do a lot better than people expect.”

The Clinton campaign said a single-digit win by her would raise questions about Mr. Obama’s electability after he outspent Mrs. Clinton 3-to-1 in the state. The Clinton campaign would argue that Mr. Obama’s failure to “close the deal,” especially with the key demographic of white working-class voters, signals that his campaign has a fatal flaw.

“I don’t want you to take a leap of faith or have any guesswork,” Mrs. Clinton said at a morning rally in Scranton, her late father’s hometown. “You believe as I do that we need a president who is going to solve our problems, not just talk about them.”

Mrs. Clinton, whose 20-point advantage entering Pennsylvania dwindled to about five points, has increased her lead in two statewide polls over the weekend, topping Mr. Obama 51 percent to 44 percent in a Quinnipiac University survey and 52 percent to 42 percent in a Suffolk University poll.

In the remaining 10 nominating contests, of which Pennsylvania is the largest with 158 delegates up for grabs, neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs. Clinton is likely to garner the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Mr. Obama has 1,648 nominating delegates to Mrs. Clinton’s 1,509, according to the Associated Press tally of pledged delegates and superdelegates who have announced whom they will support.

Both campaigns are jetting across the state today with stops in Scranton, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.


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