On Eve of Crucial Primary, Clinton Ad Invokes bin Laden
On Eve of Crucial Primary, Clinton Ad Invokes bin
By JEFF ZELENY and JOHN M. BRODER
Published: April 22, 2008
BLUE BELL, Pa. The six-week Pennsylvania primary
drew to a contentious finish Monday as Senator Hillary
Rodham Clinton invoked images of Pearl Harbor and
Osama bin Laden in a television advertisement that
questioned Senator Barack Obamas ability to lead in a
As she sought to spark a comeback in the Democratic
nominating contest, Mrs. Clinton warned voters not to
take a leap of faith or have any guesswork when they
cast ballots Tuesday.
The Obama campaign accused her of employing the
politics of fear.
With 158 pledged delegates at stake in Pennsylvania,
the largest state remaining on the partys primary
calendar, the candidates raced from Scranton to
Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and a smattering of
suburbs along the way to rally their supporters and
win over a dwindling lot of undecided voters.
While Mr. Obama spent nearly twice as much on
television advertising in the state as Mrs. Clinton in
the final days of the race, she broadcast a new
commercial that used historic images from critical
moments in the countrys past to ask voters whom they
could trust in the White House. It did not mention Mr.
Obama, but closed with Who do you think has what it
Mr. Obama, after three days of criticizing Mrs.
Clinton with some of his sharpest language of the
campaign, did not directly engage her. But his
campaign quickly responded with an advertisement of
its own that asked voters: Who in times of challenge
will unite us not use fear and calculation to divide
Pennsylvania has become a major battleground in the
fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, with
the future of Mrs. Clintons campaign most likely
resting on the outcome. Even a wide victory by her
would not overcome her deficit in pledged delegates or
in the popular vote of states that have held
nominating contests, but it would ensure that the race
moved on to contests in Indiana and North Carolina in
two weeks, on May 6.
As she spoke Monday in her fathers hometown,
Scranton, Mrs. Clinton reinforced the message of her
advertisement, arguing that Mr. Obama was untested. I
dont want you to take a leap of faith or have any
guesswork about the next president, she said. Weve
had enough of that, she added.
Her commercial was the first in which a Democratic
candidate had used Osama bin Laden in the presidential
race, although Republicans, including Rudolph W.
Giuliani, have done so. In her commercial, Mr. bin
Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
is featured along with grainy images of the stock
market crash of 1929, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the
fall of the Berlin Wall and Hurricane Katrina.
In an interview Monday with Larry King on CNN , Mrs.
Clinton said the advertisement addressed the reality
that the new president will inherit some of the most
dangerous and difficult decisions that any president
has had to make in a very long time.
I want people to think seriously about leadership,
because thats what Im offering in this campaign,
she said. I think Im ready.
Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, responded that Mrs.
Clinton was invoking Mr. bin Laden to score political
points. He added, We already have a president who
plays the politics of fear, and we dont need
As Obama supporters worked to drum up support, they
said they were still hearing rumors that Mr. Obama was
Muslim and questions about his patriotism. At an
evening campaign stop, a voter asked Mr. Obama how he
could allay such concerns.
It frustrates me that people would even have a
question about something like that, because they dont
ask the same questions of some of the other
candidates, said Mr. Obama, who told a story about an
American flag he received at the funeral of his
grandfather, a World War II veteran. If they dont
vote for me, it should be because they think Senator
Clinton or Senator McCain have better ideas. It
shouldnt be because they think that I am less
patriotic or because they question what my religious
The Clinton campaign manager, Maggie Williams, pleaded
for volunteers Monday to help work phone banks and
perform other get-out-the-vote tasks.
To put it as simply as I can, more calls equal more
votes, Ms. Williams wrote in an e-mail message to
The central battlegrounds included Pittsburgh, where
both candidates stopped Monday, and the Philadelphia
suburbs, including Blue Bell, where Mr. Obama arrived
He sat beneath a blossoming dogwood tree, surrounded
by about three dozen people who had been invited by
the campaign, and took questions about the economy,
education and foreign policy. The pleasant image was
intended to counteract the attacks he had used in
recent days against Mrs. Clinton.
David Axelrod, the chief strategist to Mr. Obama, told
reporters on the campaign plane Monday evening that he
believed it was very difficult for Mrs. Clinton to
win the nomination. But he conceded that it was likely
she would win Pennsylvania.
Its one more stop along the way, Mr. Axelrod said.