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Clinton sharpens attack in US presidential race

world Updated: Feb 16, 2008 08:32 IST
Caren Bohan
Caren Bohan
Reuters
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Sen Hillary Clinton sharpened her attack on Friday against rival Barack Obama before new contests for the Democratic presidential nomination, casting herself as a champion of the US middle class and saying voters faced a choice between "speeches and solutions."

Clinton, under pressure to slow Obama's momentum after eight consecutive losses, honed her economic message to appeal to middle- and lower-income voters before the next round of Democratic contests in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday and Texas and Ohio on March 4.

"It is time we had a president who was a fighter, a doer and a champion for the American middle class," Clinton said as she visited a popular Cincinnati restaurant, Skyline Chili, for an economic round-table.

"I am a candidate of, from and for the middle class of America," added Clinton, who grew up in a comfortable middle-class suburb of Chicago, then went on to attend Wellesley College and Yale Law School. She often talks at her campaign events about how she relied on government loans to help fund her education.

The New York senator stressed her proposals for a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures and a cap on credit card interest rates, and the elimination of tax breaks for companies that export jobs overseas. She has also vowed to work to eliminate tax breaks that let Wall Street money managers pay lower tax rates.

"We are going to change the tax code. It is wrong that an investment money manager on Wall Street making $50 million a year gets a lower tax rate than a teacher, a nurse, a truck driver, an auto worker making $50,000 a year," Clinton said.

The former first lady, who would be the first female US president, tried to use Obama's skill as a public speaker against him, again accusing him of offering rhetoric rather than substance.

"This primary election offers a very big choice to the voters of Ohio," she said. "You can choose speeches or solutions."

Clinton's criticisms came as a new poll showed her trailing Obama in Texas by 6 percentage points. The American Research Group survey, which had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, showed Clinton with 42 percent support versus 48 percent for Obama.

Both Texas and Ohio are considered "must win" states for Clinton, who is lagging Obama in the race for pledged delegates awarded by the state-by-state contests to pick a Democratic nominee for president. The delegates will choose the Democratic candidate at a nominating convention this summer.

Clinton has spent the past several days campaigning in those two states, delaying a push into Wisconsin even though that state holds its primary on Tuesday. Clinton will begin a four-day swing through Wisconsin on Saturday.

Obama, campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where a new poll showed him with a 5-point lead over Clinton, rejected her attacks and accused her of being part of the problem in Washington.

'Gamesmanship'

"I understand Senator Clinton periodically when she is feeling down launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal. But I think this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for," the Illinois senator said.

Obama scored another big endorsement, winning the support of the 1.9 million-member Service Employees International Union, whose president, Andy Stern, said the executive board had overwhelmingly favored the Illinois senator.

"We do think he has the experience and the vision we need in our next president," Stern said.

Republican front-runner John McCain also scored a big endorsement -- that of former President George HW Bush, the father of the current president. McCain told a news conference he would travel to Houston on Monday to meet with the elder Bush.

McCain is almost certain to be the Republican presidential nominee for the November general election after defeating his main rival, former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney, and winning his endorsement. McCain's nearest rival is former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee, who is running a distant second.