Obama and Clinton Stop Pulling Punches With just a few days left to catch voters' attention before the Thanksgiving holiday, the two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are in the two states that get the first say, and they're becoming more vocal with their criticisms of each other.

Obama and Clinton Stop Pulling Punches

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination is getting closer according to the polls and getting more pointed on the stump. The two leading contenders, Senator Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire this week. And while both have issues on their agendas, they clearly have each other on their minds.

BLOCK: NPR's David Greene and Don Gonyea are traveling with the candidates and join us now. And Don Gonyea, let's start with you. You're in New Hampshire with Senator Obama. Where exactly are you?

DON GONYEA: I am pulled off by the side of the road in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. For those who know the area, it's halfway between Alton and Conway. We're near the main border. And I can tell you, it has started to snow here in New Hampshire. When I went to the first Obama event today, it was dry when I went in. I came out, there was close to an inch of snow on the ground. That was in Manchester. So everybody is getting in the mood for primary weather. But it made for kind of a slushy bus tour for the senator today.

BLOCK: And, David Greene, probably with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Clear skies there?

DAVID GREENE: Not so much, Melissa. We're - I'm in the southwestern corner of the state. And actually, the weather was so foggy that Hillary Clinton was supposed to arrive in the town of Shenandoah and speak in a fire hall. And her plane, according to her staff, made a couple of tries at the small airport here. It could make it in because of the fog. They diverted her to Omaha. She never made it. And as a lot of the people were filing out, the place was about still half-full. And all of a sudden, Hillary Clinton comes over the speaker and says that she was on a phone and she wanted to tell people that she's going to come back. But then she went on with her speech for about five or 10 minutes, speaking to voters over the - over the speaker. It was very strange.

BLOCK: David, there have been polls showing a very tight three-way race in Iowa for weeks now - Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and also former Senator John Edwards. Now, a new Washington Post-ABC poll released today showing Barack Obama moving slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton although still a statistical dead heat. Do you hear adjustments being made in the Clinton campaign this week because of that?

GREENE: Melissa, I think they were ready for polls like this or at least braced for it. I mean, they were ready for a challenge, I think, to have to go up against at least one candidate in Iowa. And you know the Clinton campaign have been upping their staff in Iowa. They've been adding money. And, you know, they seem like they're just being very aggressive in responding to anything. There was a controversy over whether the Clinton campaign had planted questions in events, planted questions with voters beforehand. You know, that raised a lot of questions about her trust, and I think the campaign was worried that the voters might raise serious questions about that.

They released a new ad basically with a gentleman who wrote Senator Clinton to seek help to get his son a bone marrow transplant. And this gentleman in the ad basically says, you know, you can trust Hillary Clinton. I did and you can, too. So they're acting like a campaign that's in defense mode and definitely realized that it was going to be a tough fight here.

BLOCK: Those are the ads. David, what is she - what is Hillary Clinton talking about as she goes around talking to voters?

GREENE: Well, she's been in a lot of rural areas of Iowa these last couple of days. And it's Thanksgiving time, so she's at the holiday time - and, again, this was speaking over the speaker to voters here in Shenandoah - she wanted to bring up food safety. She said that the food that Americans put on their tables should be safe. She thinks that the rules regulating food imports are just a mess. And she said that if a ham and cheese sandwich in the United States is on one slice of bread it's one agency that inspects it. If it's on two slices bread, it's another agency. She wants to make sure that there's one clearinghouse for inspection to make sure food is safe.

But also, Barack Obama is on her mind, Melissa, there's no doubt about that. And she's sounding a bit like a challenger, you know, no longer talking just about Republicans, but talking about the other Democrat who's way up there in the polls. And she really had a zinger at this event today. She was talking about foreign policy experience. And this was directed clearly at Obama. She said voters are going to have to judge whether living in a foreign country at age 10 prepares someone for the complex international challenges that will face the U.S. president. So it's quite a line.

BLOCK: Don Gonyea, let's turn to you. You're traveling with Barack Obama. What's his response then to these latest remarks from Hillary Clinton?

GONYEA: I did a brief interview with him earlier today. And he downplayed the notion that the rhetoric is escalating, that it's getting more personal. He says they're talking about differences. But I can tell you, over the course of today, he did go after Hillary Clinton specifically at a number of occasions.

At the first event, he was laying out his own education proposals. And he went after her for her role in supporting the No Child Left Behind legislation that came out of the Bush White House. He says she didn't fight hard enough to make sure it was fully funded.

And then finally, at the end of a town hall meeting here today, he was thanking everybody. He was praising them for the good questions. And as it was winding down, he said, oh, one more thing. All of these questions were asked by these people. None of them were planted, again, a reference to that earlier controversy regarding the Clinton campaign. So he got his digs in.

BLOCK: Okay. The Iowa caucuses, David Greene, January 3rd, right?

GREENE: You got it.

BLOCK: And Don Gonyea, any date yet for the New Hampshire primary?

GONYEA: Nothing absolutely firm yet.

BLOCK: Okay. Thanks to you both.

GREENE. Thanks.

GONYEA: It's a pleasure.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Don Gonyea in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and David Greene in Shenandoah, Iowa.

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