Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Clinton avoids Palin, focuses criticism on McCain

NEW YORK (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is avoiding a public face-off with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the new female star of the 2008 campaign, while still raising money and votes for the Democrat who wrested the presidential nomination from her.

Advisers to party nominee Barack Obama and to Clinton say that she will resist pressure to speak out against Palin, believing it would diminish her own stature while creating a "cat fight" sideshow that would only distract voters from the contest at the top of the ticket. Any mention Clinton makes of Palin will only be in the context of her partnership with GOP nominee John McCain, aides said.

The New York senator abruptly canceled an appearance at a rally protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after learning that Palin had also been invited to the event scheduled next week outside the United Nations. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said Clinton was never told that the Alaska governor would be there.

A spokeswoman for Palin, Tracey Schmitt, said of Clinton's cancellation: "Gov. Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics. She hopes that all parties can rally together in opposition to this grave threat."

When McCain chose Palin as his running mate, a new chapter began in Clinton's complicated political saga.

Besides her own sore feelings for losing the nomination to Obama — not to mention about $24 million in campaign debt — Clinton has had to deal with the disappointment of many supporters angry at what they perceived as sexist treatment of her by the Obama campaign and the news media.

One prominent Clinton backer and fundraiser, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, announced her support for McCain on Wednesday. The former Democratic Party platform committee member has said Obama is arrogant and has a problem connecting with average Americans.

Indeed, an Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted Sept. 5-15 found that 26 percent of voters who supported Clinton are now backing McCain and Palin, who was brought on in part to woo women voters.

Clinton took a light approach to Palin this week on ABC's "Good Morning America," one of a handful of national interviews she has granted since abandoning her presidential bid in June.

"You know, I think the point is not the vice presidential candidate on the other side, with all due respect. It is the presidential candidate," Clinton said. "Sen. McCain is not offering much of a change from what has already been the policies of the Republicans and of this administration."

Susie Tompkins Buell, a Clinton supporter and fundraiser who only recently announced she would back Obama in the general election, said she agreed Clinton should avoid being an "attack dog" against Palin.

But Buell said Obama should showcase Clinton more prominently if he hopes to win in November.

"I think the Obama campaign should use her as much as they can because they need her terribly. This isn't looking so great right now," she said.

Clinton has said repeatedly that she would do whatever the Obama campaign asked her to do, and so far she has made good on that promise.

"We couldn't be happier," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, adding that officials would ask Clinton to step up campaign appearances after the Senate adjourns this month.

Clinton traveled last weekend to Ohio, a major battleground state, and has campaigned for Obama in Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. She's raised more than $4 million for Obama and is planning another fundraising reception next week in New York slated to bring in about $500,000.

Clinton is also campaigning on behalf of Democratic Senate and House candidates, where she talks up the need to strengthen the party's majorities in Congress to help an Obama administration. She planned to address a rally in Kentucky on Saturday on behalf of Bruce Lunsford, who is challenging veteran GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader.

Clinton has a warm relationship with Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and plans to campaign with him despite grumbling from many supporters who believe Obama should have chosen her as his running mate.

Biden and Clinton held an online video forum with women voters where they took questions on pay equity, abortion rights and other issues. The forum was to be broadcast Wednesday evening on Obama's campaign Web site.

Associated Press writer Charles Babington and Polling Director Alan Fram contributed to this report from Washington.

of course it's more winning for Clinton to focus criticism on McCain.

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