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Campaign Notebook

Looking to shift focus off flap, Obama returns to hope theme

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April 16, 2008

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama said yesterday that voters are justifiably angry over high gas prices, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and other examples of economic insecurity, yet that is no reason to give up hope.

The presidential candidate largely steered clear of the days-old flap over his comments about embittered voters in small towns who "cling to guns or religion," returning to his signature theme of the "politics of hope."

"Just because you're mad, just because it seems like nobody is listening to ordinary Americans, that's not a reason to give up hope," Obama told the Building Trades National Legislative Conference. "You get mad and then you decide you're going to change it."

Later, Obama dismissed a voter's suggestion that when Hillary Clinton called him "elitist" over his comments, there was a racial motivation because it was bordering on calling him "uppity."

"It's politics," the Illinois senator said at a town hall meeting in Washington, Pa. "This is what we do politically, when we start getting behind in races. We start going on the attack."

His campaign yesterday also launched a TV ad in Pennsylvania responding to Clinton's ad hitting him for his remarks. It doesn't repeat the comments, but instead portrays them as a distraction from important issues.

The ad shows footage of the scattered boos and jeers that greeted Clinton when she mentioned the comments Monday. "There's a reason people are rejecting Hillary Clinton's attacks," the announcer says. "Because the same old Washington politics won't lower the price of gas or help our struggling economy."

Obama's surge in Pennsylvania, where the next Democratic primary is Tuesday, appears to have stopped since the controversy, but new polls released yesterday offered no sign so far that he has been wounded.

A Quinnipiac University poll indicated Hillary Clinton with a 50 percent-to-44 percent lead over Obama, the same as a week earlier. Prior to last week, polls had indicated Obama was narrowing her lead from single digits in recent weeks. Clinton appeared to have a 46 percent-to-41 percent edge in a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, but that was within the survey's margin of error.

With Obama spending a reported $3.3 million this week on Pennsylvania TV ads, Clinton's campaign yesterday sought to lower expectations of a double-digit victory.

"If Senator Obama fails to win Pennsylvania, despite outspending us massively, it will be another sign that he's unable to win in the large states that a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket needs to win," Howard Wolfson, Clinton communications director, told reporters.

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Clinton needles rival on releasing tax returns
Hillary Clinton's campaign, using tax deadline day, tried to turn the tables on Barack Obama yesterday, calling on him to release his income tax returns from when he was in the Illinois state Senate.

After weeks of badgering from Obama's campaign and from the media, Clinton released her joint returns earlier this month. They showed that between 2000 - the last year her husband, Bill, was in the White House - and the end of 2007, they earned more than $109 million, most coming from the former president's speaking engagements and book royalties.

Obama, who had previously disclosed most of his returns, has pledged to release his 2007 return this month.

But Clinton's camp accused Obama of talking a good game on transparency, but not following through himself.

"Senator Obama has refused to release his tax returns for 1997, 1998, and 1999, even though he was in public life as a state senator during those years. During this period of time, Senator Obama was accepting contributions from special interest lobbyists, PACs, and even directly from corporations," Phil Singer, Clinton spokesman, said in a statement.

FOON RHEE

Obama ad on lobbyists depicts pernicious circle
Barack Obama, trying to show that he is in touch with average voters while his rivals are creatures of a corrupt Washington, launched an Internet ad yesterday that hits Hillary Clinton over lobbyist money.

Obama's campaign asserts that Clinton has taken more than $800,000 from lobbyists, more than any other presidential candidate. Obama points out that he doesn't take money from federal lobbyists or political action committees, though he has accepted campaign cash from other lobbyists.

The spot lays out a "three-step guide" to lobbying in the nation's capital: Lobbyists donate to politicians (showing the $800,000 figure), politicians defend lobbyists (showing Clinton saying last year that she'll continue to accept lobbyist money because they represent "real Americans"), and Americans pay the price (showing rising gas prices, prescription drug costs, and padlocked plants).

"We can't end the Washington game until we change the players," the ad concludes.

FOON RHEE

Trailing candidate should quit in June, Frank opines
US Representative Barney Frank said yesterday that the trailing Democratic candidate should drop out no later than June 3 - the date of the last two primaries - even if it is the candidate he supports, Hillary Clinton.

The Massachusetts Democrat suggested that once it becomes clear a candidate has no chance of winning the nomination, he or she should quit.

Barack Obama leads Clinton in both pledged delegates and in the popular vote.

Neither is likely to win enough delegates through June 3, so the decision will be up to superdelegates, like Frank. About 300 of the 800 or so are still undeclared.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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