Obama takes on Clinton’s “electability” argument
DURHAM, N.C. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took aim on Monday at his rival Hillary Clinton’s argument that he is less electable than her given his recent series of troubles and because he has not been fully “vetted.”
Amid a flap over comments from his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other controversies, Obama has seen his poll numbers slide lately against both Clinton and the Republican candidate for November’s election, John McCain.
Obama publicly denounced Wright last week after the pastor moved back into the spotlight and repeated his inflammatory charges that the Sept. 11 attacks were in part retribution for U.S. policy and that the government spread AIDS to harm blacks.
Obama has also faced questions about his association with 1960s radical William Ayres and about why he doesn’t wear a U.S. flagpin.
The Illinois senator said those issues had hurt his campaign but did not “knock us off stride.” The fact that the impact from those problems was not greater was a sign that his candidacy was strong, he said.
“Despite all that, if you look at it, we’re still fundamentally tied with John McCain,” Obama said, responding to a question from an undecided voter who asked him about the electability question.
Clinton has pushed the argument that the party elders and officials known as the “superdelegates” should rally around her as the nominee because, as a former first lady, she has been “vetted” and is better able to fend off attacks from Republicans in a general election.
Obama’s counterargument is that the Wright controversy and other issues have that have come up amount to a “vetting” for him. He also challenged Clinton’s contention that Republicans would not try to dredge up old lines of attack against her.
“Sen. Clinton, despite what she says about being vetted, she hasn’t gone through what I’ve been going through over the last couple of months because she’s not the front-runner,” Obama said.
After Obama spoke, the McCain camp weighed in on the electability question, saying that Obama’s opposition to a summer gas tax holiday and his support for an increase in the capital gains tax would leave him vulnerable in the general election if he becomes the nominee.
“Those are Obama’s pledged positions, and they aren’t popular in North Carolina, Indiana or most anywhere else in America,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
-Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama orders food and coffee in Durham, North Carolina on May 5)