Sloppy attacks from the Clinton campaign

In a public e-mail message, the campaign accuses the Obama campaign of dirty tricks and the New York Times of ignoring Democrats.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 4, 2007 2:37PM (EST)

The Clinton campaign this week began distributing a "Morning HUBDate," which it says is the "daily update" it sends out each day to its own staff. "We will send it out each morning," Caroline Adler said in the first installment, which we received Monday. "It will give you a rundown of the news and what to look for that day."

The news? If today's installment is any indication, not exactly.

Today's HUBDate -- titled "Dirty Tricks" -- features this bit of "breaking news": "Nothing says the politics of hope like telling people to go to the wrong caucus locations or getting a negative push poll call during dinner. But that's exactly what the Obama campaign is doing to Hillary supporters in IA and NH, HRC's Patti Solis-Doyle warned in an email to supporters overnight."

But that's not, in fact, what Solis Doyle said in the e-mail that went out last night. What she said was that the Clinton campaign has "heard reports that Hillary supporters are getting calls that tell them incorrect caucus locations. Supporters have also told us about push polls -- when they tell the pollster they support Hillary, they are given negative talking points about her and asked which attacks are the most effective." Solis Doyle does not allege in her e-mail that the Obama campaign is behind those deeds; she says only that the Clinton campaign has "heard that Obama staffers are berating Hillary supporters on the phone with negative attacks against her."

We asked Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer this morning if the campaign actually had "any proof" that Barack Obama's campaign is behind any "wrong caucus location" or "push-polling" calls -- or if, in the alternative, the HUBDate was simply wrong. Singer responded to our e-mail message, but he didn't answer that question.

This morning's HUBDate contains one other bit of news that isn't quite that. Under the category "Media Watchdog," the HUBdate says: "The NY Times runs a story claiming that Democrats are concerned about Hillary at the top of the ticket. But the story quotes not a single Democrat -- not even on background. Republicans are the only people quoted!"

We were ready to share in the exclamation-point-worthy outrage -- until we read the story to which the e-mail seems to refer.

Under the headline "Vulnerable Democrats See Fates Tied to Clinton," the Times says that "the possibility that Clinton will be the nominee is already generating concern among some Democrats in Republican-leaning states and Congressional districts, who fear that sharing the ticket with her could subject them to attack as too liberal and out of step with the values of their constituents."

The story focuses on the reelection fight facing Kansas Rep. Nancy Boyda. She's a Democrat, and she's quoted several times in the story. Explaining that she doesn't have any control over the presidential race and that the Republicans are going to demonize whomever the Democrats nominate, she says she's just going to "keep my head down and work" for the people in her district. She also tells the Times -- although she's not quoted on this point directly -- that she has faith that Kansans are willing to vote a split ticket.

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen is also quoted in the Times' piece. He's a Democrat, and he says that the presidential race is "an opportunity" for Democratic House members "to distinguish themselves on the issues from whoever the nominee is."

The Times also quotes Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson. We're pretty sure he's a Democrat, too. He says that the "actual evidence makes clear that [Clinton] is an asset in tough districts."

We asked Singer about the claim that the story "quotes not a single Democrat." His response: "It doesn't quote a Democrat expressing concern about Clinton." But that's not the charge the Clinton campaign made in the HUBDate. It's not particularly surprising, either. As the Times notes, "House Democrats do not like to discuss the idea of reverse coattails for fear of giving it too much credence and angering the Clinton camp. But they are privately nervous about what Mrs. Clinton's nomination might mean in Republican-leaning locales where they made gains in 2006 that were crucial to their becoming the majority."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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