Saturday, January 05, 2008

Clinton aides hint now things'll get nasty

I hope Sen. Clinton doesn't go negative, as a couple of my friends hypothesized, but this article captures the early stages of it.
Clinton aides hint now things'll get nasty

While you were sleeping, the chartered jet of the third-place finisher in the Iowa Democratic caucus winged its way from Des Moines to Manchester, N.H. And it sounds like some decisions were made on that plane that may alter the course of that party's presidential race.

At her concession speech in Des Moines Thursday night Hillary Clinton was all gracious and determined and smiling. But hours later on that flight someone named Mark Penn, who happens to be her chief political strategist, ominously told a gaggle of reporters, including The Times' Peter Nicholas, that the campaign's focus needs to shift now onto, you might have guessed, someone named Barack Obama.

The Illinois senator happens to be the first-place finisher in those same caucuses and now Clinton, once the inevitable Democratic nominee, is playing catch-up. Things could get nasty with some pretty sharp media contrasts made in coming days, it would seem. "This has been very much a referendum on her,'' said Penn. "And people will take a harder look at the choice and the kind of president who will be needed in these times.''

Penn hinted that the Clinton campaign may be poised to mount a more aggressive campaign in New Hampshire than in Iowa. "Time and again in the Democratic primaries," he said, "you've seen people latch onto the new, seemingly fresh candidate only to then take a sobering look at the choice they have when it comes down to the end of it. I think you're going to see that again.''

He claimed that Obama's record is comparatively unexplored and he suggested the news media should ask itself about taking a closer look at Obama's history. "Does everyone know everything they need to know about Barack Obama?'' Penn asked. "That's a decision you're going to have to make. I think at this point his record is not very well known. And she is really well-known. She's fully vetted, fully tested. And I don't think that process has occurred with Barack Obama.''

For weeks now Clinton aides have been threatening on and off the record to use some bad stuff against their chief opponent. First, two of them told conservative columnist Robert Novak the Clintons had very damaging information on Obama, but they weren't going to use it. Then her New Hampshire co-chair, Billy Shaheen, said, not that any Democrat would use Obama's admitted youthful drug use against him, but boy, would the Republicans have a field day with that later this year.


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