WASHINGTON -- White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is mounting a you-go-girl girlfriend offensive in accusing her all-male lineup of rivals of "piling on," moving to recover her footing from a poor performance in Tuesday's debate in Philadelphia.
Chief rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Friday was not buying the gender defense and said he did not wave a race card when he was roughed up in a debate. The campaign of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) rejected the notion the men were piling on, saying the problem was Clinton's "politics of parsing."
In an interview on NBC's "Today Show" on Friday with host Matt Lauer, Obama alluded to race --Obama is the only African American running -- when he said he just toughed out darts thrown at him at an Iowa debate.
"And I didn't come out and say, 'Look, I'm being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage."
Obama said it does not make sense that after convincing everyone she was tough "that suddenly she backs off and says, 'Don't pick on me.' "
After the Philadelphia debate, where Clinton stumbled on questions dealing with her first lady papers at the Clinton library -- and giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses -- the Clinton team started playing the gender card.
A very clever Internet video titled "The Politics of Pile On" played lyrically arranged clips of the Demo-cratic men mentioning Clinton's name at the debate while the overture of the "Marriage of Figaro" played in the background.
The spot ends with Clinton's debate sound bite, "I seemed to be the topic of great conversation and consternation, and that's for a reason."
The quote, while effective in the spot, was taken out of context. Clinton was referring to Republicans at a recent debate making references to her, not Democrats.
Arguing gender is tricky for Clinton since she has been saying on the stump she is not running because she is a woman.
At the same time, she appeals to gender pride by frequently mentioning she would be the first female president.
Thursday, Clinton returned to Wellesley College, her undergraduate school, where she continued to work the theme.
"In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all boys' club of presidential politics," she said.
On the stump, Obama does not often mention race. Friday, campaigning in South Carolina -- where African Americans will cast what could be the decisive votes -- he did make a racial appeal. "Now I've heard that some folks aren't sure America is ready for an African-American president," he said, adding he would not be running if her were not confident he could win.
Meanwhile, the Edwards campaign produced a new video headlined "The Politics of Parsing" -- a play on the Clinton title -- where, with the Blue Danube waltz playing in the background, letters on the screen mocked Clinton by asking, "was it something we said" and "or was it double talk."