No stop to sniping: Clinton says Obama 'looking for a fight'

Presidential race heats up

01/23/2008 9:48 AM

01/23/2008 9:51 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton charged that Sen. Barack Obama was "looking for a fight" in their Monday night debate as they resumed their war of harsh words Tuesday, and John Edwards insisted that he's the only "grown-up" in the Democratic presidential race.

A day after their Myrtle Beach, S.C., debate got personal and often ugly, Clinton began a cross-country campaign trip by flying to Washington, D.C., where she told reporters that Obama was "very frustrated." After losing Nevada's caucus Saturday, Clinton said, Obama's advisers "have apparently convinced him to adopt a different strategy. He clearly came -- he telegraphed it, he talked about it -- he clearly came last night looking for a fight. He was determined and launched right in."

The Illinois senator got in jabs during a media conference call, asserting that, "It's very clear that Senator Clinton and President Clinton have been spending the last month attacking me in ways that are not accurate."

Then Obama went on the attack, spicing an economic speech in Greenville, S.C., with barbs at Clinton. The New York senator, Obama said, didn't think that workers or seniors needed immediate tax relief when she unveiled her economic stimulus package Jan. 11.

"She thought it could wait until things got worse," he said. "Five days later, the economy didn't really change, but the politics apparently did, because she changed her plan to look just like mine."

Obama, who offered his plan Jan. 13, has proposed a $75 billion stimulus plan that includes a $250 "bonus" to seniors in their Social Security checks and a $250 tax rebate. Those figures would double if the economy worsened.

Clinton's original $70 billion blueprint concentrated more on help for energy costs and housing, but included a $40 billion contingency that would provide tax rebates "if economic circumstances continue to worsen." On Tuesday, though, she seemed to drop the what-ifs, saying, "We need a combination of spending, regulatory action with respect to the housing market and rebates through the tax system."

After her appearance in Washington, Clinton headed to a town hall meeting in Salinas, in Monterey County, then to Arizona, New Mexico and New Jersey, all among the 22 states and American Samoa that will cast ballots Feb. 5. Polls show Clinton ahead in the four states she will visit. She'll return to South Carolina on Thursday for Saturday's Democratic primary.

Clinton rejected the suggestion that she's giving up on South Carolina, where polls show her about 10 points behind Obama, on average.

Edwards tried to paint himself as the statesman, telling supporters in a cold peanut warehouse in Conway, "I was proud to represent the grown-up wing of the Democratic Party last night." The Seneca, S.C., native and former North Carolina senator called the Obama-Clinton spat "petty, petty bickering" as he talked about his economic plan, which includes creating more jobs involving renewable energy technologies and reducing the number of home foreclosures.

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