Clinton shifts tactics to revive campaign

Hillary Clinton is switching to an aggressive new strategy against Barack Obama to revive her campaign in advance of next week’s Texas and Ohio primaries and to restore the morale of her flagging election team.

The new approach resolves weeks of internal debate inside her camp about the best way of stopping Obama. The debate has frequently been acrimonious, including a screaming match between two top advisers.

Some in her campaign team had opposed a resumption of negative campaigning, pointing out that Obama is popular and attacks on him alienate Democratic voters.
They also argued that negative campaigning turned out to be counter-productive in South Carolina last month.

Clinton has rejected their advice and offered an early glimpse of her new strategy in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the weekend when she described as “shameful” mailshots sent out by Obama’s campaign.

She expressed disappointment: “Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove’s playbook. This is wrong and every Democrat should be outraged ... Shame on you, Barack Obama.”

Rove, President George Bush’s former adviser, is seen by Democrats as a master of dirty tricks.

She is planning to make it an issue in Tuesday’s televised debate in Cleveland. This could contrast with the almost cordial approach she adopted in a debate in Texas last Thursday. “Meet me in Ohio and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behaviour in this campaign,” she said.

She is to contrast what she will portray as the vagueness of his rock-star concert-style rallies with her seriousness on foreign policy and economics. She is to make a foreign policy speech on Monday in Washington, DC, that will cover Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and other trouble spots and will be flanked by retired generals who will endorse her.

She is to adopt the same approach on Wednesday, hosting an economic conference attended by business people and unions in Ohio.

There were reports in the United States media at the weekend that some of her staff were becoming dispirited in the face of Obama’s 10 straight wins and the narrowing of polls in Texas and Ohio, where the next contests are to be held on March 4. Some staff were reported to be taking time off in spite of it being crunch time and switching off their BlackBerrys.

Other advisers claimed the reports of falling morale were overblown and Clinton remained in contention.

The latest polls in Ohio put her 8% ahead, but in Texas the gap is narrow, with leads between 3% and 5%. If she were to lose either, there would be pressure on her to stand down.

She is banking on the large Latino vote in Texas to see her through. So far, Clinton has won each primary or caucus in which the Latino vote has equalled or exceeded the African-American vote, and in Texas the Latino vote outnumbers the black voting population by three to one.

At the end of Saturday’s rally in Cincinnati, she called together reporters to wave two of Obama’s mailshots at them. One claimed her healthcare plan would force people to buy insurance if they could not afford it and the other quoted her as describing as “a boon” the North American Free Trade Association, which many Americans blame for job losses.

Obama defended the flyers as accurate. The quote about Nafta being a “boon” had initially appeared in Newsday, though it subsequently retracted it. The Obama campaign team claimed the mailshots had been sent out before the retraction.

Obama questioned Clinton’s motives in raising the mailshots now, given that they were sent out a week or so ago.— Â

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