Democrats: Clinton official wonders if Obama has sold drugs

I reported yesterday that Clinton had decided to go after Obama's electability argument and argue that he is too weak in the general election. Her campaign is apparently willing to take the argument quite far. Billy Shaheen, co-chair of Hillary's New Hampshire campaign and husband of the state's former governor and current Senate candidate, went pretty far today in that line of argument, arguing that Obama's past drug use would come up as a campaign issue on the trail in the general election.

Saying that Obama's willingness to talk about it would "open the door" to further questions, Shaheen made sure to detail them: "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Yes, that's right. A Clinton campaign publicly wondered if Barack Obama had sold drugs.

It did not take long for the Obama camp to blast Clinton for desperation, and for the Clinton campaign to distance themselves from Shaheen: "Senator Clinton is out every day talking about the issues that matter to the American people. These comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way."

What happened today obviously means that Clinton backers have been told by the campaign's top strategists to take aim at Obama's electability non-stop, to bring it up and make it an theme that will stick, that people will remember -- which is really a classical campaign move. And while they might have not condoned this precise line of attack, Shaheen undoubtedly got instructions to find things to discuss that would prove that Republicans would have a field day attacking Obama.

At least Clinton got some good news today when a chain of 11 New Hampshire weeklies endorsed her today. With a readership of 74,000, the Salmon Press reaches more voters than the Union Leader whose endorsement has been much touted by the McCain camp. The decision to support Clinton was based on her experience ("Those that don’t think experience counts in politics haven’t been listening to Sen. Hillary Clinton. The combination of her proven track record and positive vision for America make her our choice in the Democratic primary.") and will be featured in papers in the next few days.

A key difference with the Union Leader support of McCain, however, and the reason why that one counted more than an average newspaper endorsement, is that the Union Leader is following its initial editorial with frequent arguments in favor of McCain and against his opponents, something Salmon Press (or most other newspapers, really) are unlikely to do. So don't expect much of a boost from this -- but it at least provides Clinton some much needed positive buzz.

And a third New Hampshire poll released by Suffolk this afternoon has better news for Clinton than these morning's surveys from Rasmussen and WMUR:

  • Clinton gets 33%, against 26% for Clinton and 15% for Edwards.
  • That is a tightening from last month's 12% lead, but Clinton at least stays on top...
  • Among Republicans, Romney gets 31% to McCain's 19% and Giuliani's 17%. Huckabee got 10% -- proving that while he gained 15%+ in most states, that surge is not being at all in New Hampshire
More proof that New Hampshire will be up for grabs if Clinton loses Iowa to Obama, and that Romney has a great shot to keep New Hampshire in his camp even if he loses Iowa (as now seems likely). Huckabee is not going very far up in the state, and now that GOP voters are aware of Huckabee's rise they are not likely to abandon Romney for failing to meet expectations.

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