NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Former President Bill Clinton's job is to close the deal for his wife, and in a direct appeal for African-American votes in a radio spot aptly titled "Closer" released Thursday, he says Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is the one who has "always heard your voice."
It's an interesting phrase since after Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire win, she has been using "I found my voice" as a slogan. Bill Clinton says in the spot, "It's time for another comeback, time to make America great again. I know Hillary's the one that can do it."
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama is hoping a backlash from the Clintons' hardball tactics will pull in some cash for Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) presidential war chest, as the spouses of the front-runners loom large in this contest.
In a low-dollar direct-mail appeal, Michelle Obama writes, "We expected that Bill Clinton would tout his record from the nineties and talk about Hillary's role in his past success." But what the couple did not "expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we've seen recently."
The Clinton camp volleys back that Barack Obama has accuracy issues when he talks about the New York senator.
But in a radio ad the Clinton camp made about Obama, references to Republicans and Ronald Reagan were dropped Thursday after third parties concluded the spot went too far. Obama's camp produced a rebuttal to refute what they considered a smear, pulled off the air once the Obama team was convinced the Reagan ad was shelved. Of Hillary Clinton, the spot said, "Now she's making false attacks on Barack Obama."
At a press conference, Obama was asked if he underestimated the Clintons.
''I never underestimated them. There was a time right after Iowa where some in the press underestimated them. They are tough. This is a tough, well-honed political machine built up over the course of 20 years. We have always been the underdogs, the outsiders, the insurgent campaign."
Still, Obama is increasingly concerned over how the Clinton campaign is portraying him, devoting a portion of each stump speech Thursday to deconstructing criticisms coming from the Clinton team.
"Don't be hoodwinked. Don't be bamboozled," Obama told crowds several times during the day.
As the tensions increase between the Obama and Clinton camps, ahead of the polls opening here at 7 a.m. Saturday, Obama downplayed the nasty tone: "This is good practice for me, so, you know when I take on those Republicans, I'll be ready for it."
African Americans are expected to make up half of the Democratic vote. Obama seems to have a running start, but his campaign is concerned that if he wins, his victory will be diluted if it is seen as coming as a result of Clinton not competing seriously in South Carolina.
I talked to one high-ranking person in Clinton's campaign the other day who said they will be competitive and pick up some delegates. Another person on the Clinton team was pessimistic.
The Obama camp wants to make it clear that if they win, they earned it because Clinton is "pulling out all the stops" to win.
In a memo put out by the Obama campaign, they concluded through their research that "in the last week, the Clinton campaign nearly doubled their TV buy, expanding from spending about $236,000 on a mostly cable TV buy to more than $414,000 on wall-to-wall broadcast TV in every major market in the state.''
The Obama campaign did not provide comparative figures.