"He's running on his powerful oratory and his promises," Clinton's chief strategist, Howard Wolfson, said to reporters today on a noon conference call. "When that oratory comes from someone else, [he] should point that out."
And the campaign's focus on Obama's use of phrases that were part a gubernatorial campaign speech of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Obama's friend and supporter, seemed unlikely to fade. Before reporters hung up from the call with Wolfson, pollster Mark Penn, and Clinton advisers in Texas and Ohio, the campaign had E-mailed a press release that called into question Patrick's defense of his friend. The governor had told the New York Times that the two men spoke last summer, and he had suggested that some of his speech phraseology could be used by Obama to respond to critics. The Clinton campaign alleges that Obama's use of Patrick's words predated that.
Patrick, in a morning television appearance, called the accusations unfair and an attempt to "belittle [Obama's] ability to motivate people." Obama, who has said he should have credited Patrick, characterized the tempest as not a big deal and yesterday suggested that Clinton herself has used phrases from his campaign. But in a desperately fought battle, and with Obama threatening to extend his primary and caucus winning streak to 10 in Hawaii and Wisconsin tonight, the Clinton team appears determined to use the word-borrowing -- author-approved or not -- as part of an attempt to discredit the Illinois senator's strongest campaign assets.
"Senator Obama has put himself out there as a great orator," Wolfson said. "When he is found to be lifting passages of a speech from another elected official, it's significant."
By Liz Halloran