MALVERN, PA. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's camp complained Wednesday that Sen. Barack Obama was trying to buy the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with an extensive television advertising campaign, saying his rising popularity with the state's voters was partly the result of misleading ads.
Obama aides credited the Illinois senator's recent bus tour through the state for his rise in the polls, while also trying to lower expectations raised by the new data. But what was clear was that both camps were confronting new numbers suggesting that Obama was narrowing Clinton's lead in the April 22 primary to within a few percentage points.
"We're running uphill here," said Obama strategist David Axelrod, noting Clinton's early lead, key endorsements and advantage with older voters who make up a big slice of the state's electorate. Given Clinton's advantage in Pennsylvania, early speculation was that Obama would not expend a lot of effort in the state, so that he could concentrate on May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana.
But Obama was back in Pennsylvania on Wednesday on the heels of a six-day bus tour around the state last week. He also was pouring millions of dollars into the television advertising that prompted a furious, though low budget, response from the New York senator on the radio.
Obama leads Clinton in pledged delegates awarded nationwide this primary season, but Clinton hopes that a solid win in Pennsylvania will help convince uncommitted superdelegates that she is better equipped to swing large states to the Democrats in November.
Clinton spent the day in the western part of the state with retired military officers and veterans, holding a town hall meeting where she outlined ideas for strengthening the military. She proposed allowing troops at least one month at home for every month they spend in the field and ending the policy by which the military extends the service of combat troops beyond the terms of their initial enlistment.
Obama was in eastern Pennsylvania, bracketing his day with appearances at high schools in Malvern and Levittown. At the gleaming Great Valley High School in Malvern, Obama urged the largely white crowd to support investment in the education of all students, not just their own.
"Half the workforce is going to be black or brown" in a few decades, Obama said. "If those kids are not educated . . . they're the ones who are supposed to be paying our Social Security. If we haven't taken care of them, they won't take care of us."
Obama also went after John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, arguing that the senator from Arizona would continue "Bush-Cheney-McCain" economic policies.
"Obama is trying to distract voters from his own tax-and-spend economic policies by misrepresenting McCain's domestic agenda," said Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign called on Obama to drop a TV ad in which he declared himself free of oil company money. The Clinton camp noted that although it was illegal to accept money from corporations, Obama had accepted about $200,000 in donations from oil company executives and employees.
Obama had collected $213,884 from people in the oil and gas industry as of Feb. 29, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton collected $306,813 from the same sources.