November 21, 2007 / 3:03 AM / 10 years ago

Clinton sharpens attack on Obama's experience

<p>Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at the School Administrative Office in Knoxville, Iowa, November 19, 2007.Shannon Stapleton</p>

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton sharpened her attacks on rival Barack Obama's experience on Tuesday, a day after a poll showed her falling slightly behind him in Iowa.

Six weeks before Iowa kicks off the state-by-state battle for the Democratic nomination, Clinton questioned Obama's claim that living in a foreign country as a youth helped shape his world view and contribute to his experience.

"Voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face," Clinton said during a campaign stop in Shenandoah, Iowa.

"I think we need a president with more experience than that," said Clinton, who has repeatedly touted her own experience as first lady and questioned the readiness of the first-term senator from Illinois for the White House.

Obama has said his four years living in Indonesia as a child contributed to his knowledge of the world and how people live around the globe.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, he said experience was no substitute for judgment and criticized Clinton's votes to authorize military action in Iraq in 2003. Remarking that Clinton has said she has met with world leaders, Obama said: "Which world leader told her that we needed to invade Iraq?"

"There are a couple guys named Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who had two of the longest resumes in Washington and led us into the biggest foreign policy disaster of a generation," Obama said at a campaign stop in Alton, New Hampshire. "So a long resume doesn't guarantee good judgment. A long resume says nothing about your character."

It was the second consecutive day that Obama and Clinton have exchanged barbs on the question of experience, and follows the release of a Washington Post-ABC News poll on Monday showing Obama opening a four-point lead over Clinton in Iowa, within the statistical margin of error.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was four points behind Clinton, setting up a tight three-way race in the January 3 contest in Iowa that will open the campaign to pick nominees for the November 4, 2008, general election.

Clinton leads national polls in the Democratic race, but a loss in Iowa could slow her momentum and puncture the air of inevitability her campaign has tried to promote.

The Edwards camp, accused of mudslinging by Clinton during the last debate, criticized her comments about Obama. Spokesman Chris Kofinis said: "When it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."

The New York senator debuted a new television commercial on Tuesday touting her ability to stand up to Republican attacks.

It opens with shots of anti-Clinton ads from Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney, labeled "The Republican Attack Machine," and end with shots of their faces.

"The same old Republican attack machine is back. Why?" an announcer asks. "Maybe it's because they know that there's one candidate with the strength and experience to get us out of Iraq."

Knowing the ropes in Washington meant appeasing special interests that block key issues such as health care reform and new energy policies, Obama said.

"I hear candidates say, 'Elect me because I know how to play the game better in Washington.' We don't need somebody who plays the game better. We need somebody to put an end to the game-playing," Obama said.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jason Szep in New Hampshire)

To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:/blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

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