- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign yesterday accused Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of trying to scare up last-minute votes with an ominous TV ad aired on the eve of today’s pivotal Pennsylvania primary.

Responding to the Clinton ad — which used images of Osama bin Laden, Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression to highlight the mayhem presidents must confront — Mr. Obama quickly rolled out a commercial that asks: “Who in times of challenge will unite us, not use fear and calculation to divide us?”

The commercial answers the question with a video clip of the 2004 Democratic convention speech that introduced Mr. Obama to the nation and ignited the newcomer’s political stardom.

“We are one people,” he says. “All of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes. All of us defending the United States of America.”

The Obama campaign also circulated a quote from former President Bill Clinton at an October 2004 rally for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts before the Democrat lost his bid for president: “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.”

Mr. Obama, the national front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, predicted that Mrs. Clinton, of New York, will win the primary today but by too small a margin to justify her 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.”

Both campaigns jetted across the state with stops that included Scranton, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Mr. Obama played it safe during the last day of campaigning, dodging questions from the press even though he hasn’t talked to reporters in at least 10 days.

At a campaign stop at a diner near Scranton, Mr. Obama bristled when a reporter asked him about Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that Mr. Obama rejected an endorsement from last week.

“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?” Mr. Obama snapped.

Later, he ignored questions shouted at him by a different reporter.

The Clinton ad echoed the campaign’s charge that Mr. Obama isn’t tough enough for the White House, a criticism Mrs. Clinton has stressed since her rival complained about debate questions last week.

“You need to be ready for anything — especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis,” the baritone narrator in the Clinton ad says over a video montage of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, newspaper headlines from the 1929 stock market crash, the 1970s gasoline shortages, flooding from Hurricane Katrina and al Qaeda leader 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?”

Mr. Obama addressed the bin Laden ad at a rally at the University of Pittsburgh last night and reassured his supporters that he would keep them safe.

“That’s a legitimate issue,” he said, even though his campaign had dismissed the Clinton ad as fear-mongering.

“I will do whatever is required to keep you safe,” he told a crowd of about 10,000. “I won’t hesitate to strike against those that do us harm.”

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

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

At a rally in Harrisburg, Mrs. Clinton also made the case that Mr. Obama’s stirring oratory and message of hope do not measure up to her record and experience. She avoided the bare-knuckle attacks that defined both campaigns over the weekend.

“I know I am running for the toughest job in the world,” she said, “a job that requires not just a lot of enthusiasm and hopefulness, but savvy and know-how and experience and strength.”

Her Pennsylvania ad mirrored the “3 a.m.” TV spot the Clinton campaign aired the day before the Ohio and Texas primaries, which asked voters whom they trusted to answer an emergency call to the White House. The ad was credited with helping Mrs. Clinton win those contests and salvage a flagging campaign.

She faces a similar make-or-break election tomorrow in the Keystone State.

Mrs. Clinton edged up her lead in Pennsylvania polls over the weekend, inching toward a decisive win that would carry her to the next contests, May 6 in Indiana and North Carolina, and would help her stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After seeing the 20-point advantage she had coming into Pennsylvania dwindle to about five points, Mrs. Clinton rebounded in two statewide polls over the weekend. She tops Mr. Obama 51 percent to 44 percent in a Quinnipiac University survey and 52 percent to 42 percent in a Suffolk University poll.

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

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.

During yesterday’s stump speech, Mr. Obama kept his answers mild and did not directly criticize Mrs. Clinton until late in the day. He told voters in Blue Bell, outside of Philadelphia, that he thinks it has been a “terrific contest” and that it has proven “Democrats are pretty unified around some ideas.”

He talked to a group during a small town-hall forum at the community college in Blue Bell about gas prices, college affordability and health care costs. But the private meeting drew protests from a small band of students insulted by the exclusive gathering on their public campus.

Mr. Obama taped an interview with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and an appearance with the Food Network’s Rachael Ray.

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 without the support of superdelegates.

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.

c S.A. Miller reported from Harrisburg, Pa. Christina Bellantoni reported from McKeesport, Pa.

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