NASHUA, N.H. — Hillary Clinton, scrambling to recover from a disappointing third place in Iowa and facing a Tuesday primary vote here, said front-runner Barack Obama needs more scrutiny as she puts more focus on her chief rival.
This comes as Clinton is retooling in the wake of her photo finish with John Edwards, who won bragging rights for second, though only a fraction separated their results.
Clinton, criticized in Iowa for not taking questions often enough at campaign stops, now will do so, one of her aides said. The idea is to show off her experience to draw a contrast with Obama and demonstrate that she has been vetted and tested.
In Iowa, Obama often solicited questions from the audience, but on Friday, he didn’t host any events where time for questions was carved out. On Friday, campaigning in New Hampshire, Clinton was asked by a reporter if Obama’s record had “been sufficiently explored.”
She said it had not.
“I think everybody needs to be vetted and tested and that is the way an election is supposed to operate because the last thing the Democrats need is to move quickly through this process — it is so telescoped — without taking a hard look at all of us,” she said.
“I have a different health care plan than Sen. Obama. We’ve gone at this, but the fact remains, my plan covers everybody. My plan has a greater likelihood of achieving the goal that we have set, to actually get to universal health care. On a lot of these issues, it’s hard to know exactly where he stands, and people need to ask that and to give that information to the voters.”
Clinton’s camp has long been frustrated with what it sees as unequal press treatment, with Obama escaping the relentless inquiry that has been an everyday occurrence for the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The Clintons also operate under the megaphone of the Clinton-obsessed New York tabloid press —three competitive newspapers, the the Post, Daily News and Newsday.
Clinton’s statement could be taken as encouragement for the press to take a tougher look at Obama, who would be difficult to beat if he won New Hampshire with a commanding lead.
Obama chief strategist David Axelrod said they are “not putting a bull’s-eye on anybody’s back."
He added: “After the results in Iowa, her campaign announced a strategy of going negative, and I guess she’s just executing it. But we have faith in the people of New Hampshire to see it for what it is.”