In Closing Arguments, Clinton Sharpens Attacks on Obama


From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- For the first time in weeks, Hillary Clinton has stepped up her attacks on Barack Obama, drawing contrasts between their policy positions over gas prices, the housing crunch and health care.

"Someone running for office, particularly running for the presidency, has to be able to deal with both the immediate, the urgent, the long-term and necessary," Clinton said today, three days before the North Carolina and Indiana primaries

"There's a big disagreement in this campaign. You'll see it in the headlines about where both Senator Obama and I stand in taking on the immediate crisis that we confront," Clinton said. "You've probably heard the debate about the gas tax, because my opponent is running ads and holding press conferences attacking my plan to try to give you some kind of break this summer."

Debate over the federal gas-tax holiday has become heated in this presidential contest. Both Clinton and John McCain favor shelving the tax over the summer, with differences on how to pay for it, while Obama opposes the plan.

"This issue that we are facing today over gas prices, and the debate that my opponent and I are having over it, is really part of a larger difference between us. It's something I hope you will think about when you go to vote – either voting early today or voting next Tuesday," Clinton said to loud applause. It is an issue Clinton hopes will resonate with voters as gas prices are reaching all-time highs, with the average cost per gallon reaching $3.60 across the country.

Clinton, for the first time in quite a while, pointed out that Obama was silent on the issue over home foreclosures when she first brought the issue to light. "When the mortgage crisis broke out last spring, I said for more than a year that we need to reign in the mortgage brokers and lenders," she said. "So when I said we needed to take action and freeze foreclosures and protect families from losing their homes, my opponent disagreed."

Clinton also dusted off a line she used early on in the campaign that points out that Obama's health care plan would leave millions of Americans uninsured. "My opponent's plan would leave out 15 million people. That's not really going to work."

As the polls tighten and the Jeremiah Wright scandal dies down, there is no doubt that we can expect Clinton to sharpen her attacks at her opponent. For weeks, Clinton was able to focus on campaigning and kept on message while Obama was busy discussing his relationship to his now estranged pastor. With that story no longer in the news, it will be up to Clinton to take the shots.