Campaign Notebook

Between Democrats' surrogates, a crescendo of bitter attacks

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March 25, 2008

The war of words between surrogates for the Democratic presidential hopefuls descended further yesterday into what both campaigns described as the gutter.

Former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer, a backer of Barack Obama, complained that former President Bill Clinton, with some of his comments, was hurting the Democratic Party and leaving "a stain on his legacy much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress."

That, of course, is a blunt reference to the former president's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to impeachment hearings.

Fischer quickly apologized for the comment, posted on his blog, Iowa True Blue. Calling it "stupid" and "tasteless and gratuitous," Fischer said, "It was unnecessary and wrong."

Hillary Clinton's camp called it the most personal attack yet in the increasingly bitter nomination fight.

The two campaigns had sniped at each other over the weekend after retired Air Force General Merrill A. McPeak, an adviser to Obama, accused Bill Clinton of McCarthyism for, in McPeak's view, questioning Obama's patriotism. Clinton's campaign said her husband's remarks to veterans in North Carolina had been misconstrued and yesterday used McPeak's remark as the basis of a fund-raising appeal that began, "Dear Friend, Do you think Bill Clinton is like Joe McCarthy?"

Then, James Carville, a Clinton partisan, compared New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to the Biblical Judas, saying he betrayed the Clintons by endorsing Obama on Friday despite working in the former president's administration. Carville did not back away from that comparison, saying yesterday on CNN that he wanted to show his strong displeasure and used a "seasonal metaphor."

"I'm not going to get in the gutter with him," Richardson responded yesterday on MSNBC. He called on both campaigns to stop the personal attacks, saying that the "bloodletting" was hurting both. "We're tearing each other apart," he said.


Democratic primary for Puerto Rico OK'd
The Democratic Party yesterday approved Puerto Rico's proposal to scrap its caucus and hold a presidential primary on June 1.

A primary will give more voters a chance to take part in the nominating process, said Puerto Rico's Democratic chairman, Roberto Prats. Puerto Rico will have 55 delegates at stake in its primary, and will award them proportionally. Only three remaining states, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana, have more Democratic delegates up for grabs.

The new date means Montana and South Dakota will hold the party's last nominating contests, on June 3, barring revotes in Florida or Michigan.


An Obama sighting in US Virgin Islands
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands - Barack Obama is spending some down time in the US Virgin Islands.

Obama was keeping such a low profile that his presidential campaign would not say where he is staying, and local officials were also mum. An official at Government House in the capital, Charlotte Amalie, would confirm only that Obama was in St. Thomas, the most populated island.

Tourists said they spotted him on the beach Sunday. "We said, 'Hey, there's Barack Obama,' " said Pam Distefano, who told Fox News that they came upon him during an Easter egg hunt. Her 6-year-old daughter posed for a photo and wished Obama luck.


High court backs disclaimer for ads
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal from a conservative group that wants to promote its anti-Hillary Clinton movie without complying with campaign finance laws.

The court's decision leaves in place a lower court ruling that says Citizens United must attach a disclaimer and disclose its donors in order to run the ads.

The group said the issue will be important whether or not Clinton wins the Democratic presidential nomination. It plans a movie critical of Barack Obama if he should be the nominee.

Citizens United initially hoped to run the television advertisements in key election states during peak primary season. Its lawyers had argued that the 90-minute "Hillary: The Movie" was no different from documentaries seen on television news shows "60 Minutes" and "Nova."


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