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Clinton-Obama duel hots up

Pennsylvania primary on April 22 will be pivotal to decide the fate of Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

world Updated: Apr 21, 2008 00:09 IST

Barack Obama cast his Democratic presidential rival as a game-player who uses “slash and burn” tactics and will say whatever people want to hear, a sharp jab at her character in the final chapter of the pivotal Pennsylvania primary campaign.

Hillary Clinton implored voters on Saturday to look beyond “whoop dee do” speechmaking and take a hard look at who has the know-how to deal with America’s burdens.

“I want everyone thinking,” she declared, as if to suggest those backing Obama are not. Her implication was clear: She’s substance, he’s flash.

Altogether, the campaign for Tuesday’s contest was dissolving into the sort of acrimony that makes party leaders long for the finish line, before the nominee is damaged in the fall. Obama’s criticisms were direct, while Hillary’s were oblique but unmistakable. At various times in the protracted contest, it has been the other way around.

He pressed the case against her at stop after stop, blunt words set against the bucolic backdrop of his train ride through the Pennsylvania countryside.

For her part, Hillary struck back at a new Obama ad that criticises her health care plan, telling a rally in York: “Instead of attacking the problem, he chooses to attack my solution.”

The primary Tuesday follows a month-long hiatus in voting. Superdelegates continued drifting toward Obama in that interim, increasing his edge in the race despite his series of gaffes, and that trend is bound to accelerate if he performs strongly on Tuesday.

The New York senator struck a sombre note about problems at home and abroad as she described the stakes for voters on Tuesday. She asked them to think about the looming challenge of China, the Middle East, the trade imbalance and the debt burden. “I don’t want to just show up and give one of those whoop-dee-do speeches and get everybody whipped up,” she said. “I want everyone thinking.”

As she looked to exploit questions about his gravitas, Obama played on poll findings indicating unease with her veracity, and did so head on, with words that could easily slip into a Republican campaign ad should Hillary become the Democratic contender against Republican candidate John McCain.

“I may not be perfect but I will always tell you what I think, and I will always tell you where I stand,” Obama told a crowd in Wynnewood.