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Published: Sunday, 2/24/2008

Obama keeps pressure on foe in Ohio stops

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Barack Obama makes a point about health care during roundtable discussions with medical officials at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Barack Obama makes a point about health care during roundtable discussions with medical officials at the Ohio State University Medical Center.
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AKRON - Barack Obama went on the offensive yesterday against Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, with criticism of her universal health care plan that she claimed was "blatantly false."

At an event in Akron attended by about 5,000 people, Mr. Obama said the problem with Mrs. Clinton's mandatory insurance plan is that it would require people to buy insurance that they may not be able to afford.

"So she believes the only way to get insurance is to force you to buy insurance even if it's not yet affordable. She would go, in her words, after your wages," Mr. Obama told supporters gathered at the John S. Knight Center.

Earlier in the day, Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama's campaign literature that made the same remark was "blatantly false."

Speaking to a crowd in Cincinnati, with Gov. Ted Strickland behind her, she said, "Shame on you, Barack Obama."

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama mailings misstate her position on health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement.

"Hillary has never said she would make Americans purchase health insurance they can't afford," the campaign statement said. "The Obama campaign is taking her words out of context in an effort to mislead voters and the press."

"The important thing is not to pretend that because she's going to have a quote-unquote mandate that her plan is better than mine. The key question is who can get it done," Mr. Obama said, claiming the better record at working with Republicans and independents.

Mr. Obama, a senator from Illinois, and Mrs. Clinton, a senator from New York, are battling for votes in the Ohio primary election on March 4.

With 11 straight primary victories behind him, Mr. Obama has eclipsed Mrs. Clinton both in the popular vote and in the number of delegates, although she is said by recent polls to lead Mr. Obama in Ohio.

Mrs. Clinton spoke to a rally Friday night at Whitmer High School in Toledo.

Mr. Obama is to bring his "Keeping America's Promise" campaign to Toledo this afternoon at the University of Toledo's Savage Hall.

In Akron, the Obama campaign continued to capitalize on Mr. Obama's wildly successful rallies to mine the crowd for volunteers and to get people to cast their ballots before March 4, which is now legal for all voters in Ohio. The candidate told the crowd the office hours of the Summit County Board of Elections and its address.

Several young people opened the rally with details of how supporters could help the Obama campaign, from logging on to the Web site and making phone calls to friends and relatives and even offering space on their floors for volunteers coming from out of state.

"I've been hearing some stuff from Senator Clinton. She really liked me when I was 20 points down," Mr. Obama joked. "Today, she actually compared our campaign to Karl Rove. I'm proud of our campaign. It's based on telling the truth."

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton also clashed over NAFTA, the first of several free-trade agreements that Democrats say have been used to allow corporations and investors to move jobs overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and weak environmental laws.

On NAFTA, which is blamed widely for Ohio's loss of manufacturing jobs, he claims Mrs. Clinton once boasted that it was a success of her husband's presidency, and now she's critical. The Clinton campaign has also accused Mr. Obama of having made pro-NAFTA remarks in the past, a claim his campaign aides deny.

In fact, both candidates are making similar criticisms that NAFTA and other international trade agreements encourage American companies to pull up stakes and go where labor is cheaper and environmental protections are weaker.

One of those who is backing Mr. Obama was Cazzell Smith, 59, a Summit County councilman.

"I've been backing him all the way. I was with him from day one. I didn't know he was going to do this good," Mr. Smith said as he waited for the event to begin. He said the difference between the two Democrats is that Mr. Obama can get elected.

On his way to Toledo today, Mr. Obama plans to visit a gypsum factory this morning in Lorain.

The scheduled stop could indicate the tight battle for the 9th Congressional District, which stretches from Lucas County to Lorain County. The votes in the Democratic primary are being apportioned by congressional district.

Ninth District Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a super delegate, has not declared who she will support, but has indicated she will take into consideration the votes of her constituents.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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