print version of earlier blog post
WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama, facing a primary vote in Mississippi today, told voters there that rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to “bamboozle” and “hoodwink” them with talk that she would tap him to be her running mate, reminding people he is running to be “commander in chief.”
“I have won twice as many states as Sen. Clinton. I have won more of the popular vote than Sen. Clinton. I have more delegates than Sen. Clinton. So I don’t know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is in first place,” Obama said in Columbus, Miss.
For several days, Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have floated the notion of Obama becoming Clinton’s running mate. Bill Clinton said in Mississippi the two would be an “unstoppable force.”
The Obama campaign is trying to solidify Obama as the front-runner — important in wooing the superdelegates — and the vice president talk from the Clintons was seen as presumptive and diminishing.
Still, the friendly words about Obama from the Clintons came before a vote in a state with a large number of African Americans, a bloc that has delivered overwhelming support for Obama in earlier votes this year.
The Clinton move is not without its own problems for her uphill fight to win the Democratic nomination: Whipping up chatter about a Clinton-Obama ticket comes at the same time she is questioning his qualifications to be commander in chief from “day one.”
The Clintons are mounting a “two-for-one” argument, to try to swing people who are torn between the two rivals to vote for her and not feel bad because Obama would be on the ticket.
Don’t be fooled, Obama warned.
“But I don’t understand it. If I’m not ready how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president. Do you understand that? See I was trying to explain to somebody a while back . . . the oki-doke. You all know the oki-doke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you.”
Obama offered sharp criticism that would seem to preclude offering Clinton the No. 2 spot if he were the nominee.
“I do not believe Senator Clinton is about change because in fact this kind of gamesmanship, talking about me as vice president, but maybe he’s not ready for commander in chief. ”
Meanwhile, Clinton communication chief Howard Wolfson was pressed about the seeming contradiction.
“We do not believe that Sen. Obama has passed the commander in chief test,” Wolfson said. But Obama could still “pass the test” before the Denver convention.
In deciding to react to the Clinton talk about a ticket, Obama was thrown off message for the day. Asked why he brought it up, he said, “The Clintons have spent all weekend talking about it, so I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any ambiguity about it.”