In case of attack . . .

Today’s poll that put Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie in New Hampshire is the result of more people tuning in to the race, Obama’s New Hampshire co-chairman and former state Democratic Party chairman Ned Helms said in a conference call. “The poll is a reflection of the long, hard work we’ve done organizationally on the ground over the last year to lay the message out and frame the race about an opportunity for a change and new direction,” Helms said. (Earlier this month, Obama predicted his rise in New Hampshire polls.)

Recently, the Obama campaign has criticized Clinton’s for turning to negative campaigning (The Clinton camp said the same thing about Obama). Helms said he hopes the shift in polls does not mean a shift in tone. “This is not the time to go back to the same old politics, the now I’m going to smack you over the head with a baseball bat and attack your character,” he said.

Helms and Iowan John Norris, who was John Kerry’s state director during the 2004 caucuses, declined to answer a question on how Obama is different from John Edwards. “This isn’t about Barack Obama against John Edwards, it’s about Barack Obama’s vision for America,” Norris said.

Clinton’s campaign responded to the New Hampshire poll by pointing to other polls. A memo by Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn cites three national polls placing Clinton in the lead by between 17 and 30 points. Also recently, news reports explored two surveys Obama filled out earlier in his career.

One, from his 1996 state Senate race, was for the Independent Voters of Illinois. Among the highlights: On whether Obama supports a single-payer health plan for Illinois: “Yes in principal, although such a program will probably have to be instituted at a federal level; the long-term objective would be a universal care system that does not differentiate between the unemployed, the disabled and so on.” On whether Obama supports capital punishment: “No.”

The second survey was submitted to the National Organization for Women in 2003, during Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign. Among the highlights: On the Defense of Marriage Act: “I support laws recognizing domestic partnerships and providing benefits to domestic partners. However, I do not support legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.” On Social Security benefits for gay families: “I . . . generally favor providing benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. However . . . I would need to evaluate the fiscal impact of a specific social security reform proposal before supporting it.

- Shira Schoenberg

UPDATE: Is this what Ned Helms had in mind? Bill Shaheen tells The Washington Post's (and Monitor alum) Alec MacGillis that Obama's admitted drug use would be used against him in a general election campaign:

Billy Shaheen contrasted Obama's openness about his past drug use -- which Obama mentioned again at a recent campaign appearance in New Hampshire -- with the approach taken by George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000, when he ruled out questions about his behavior when he was "young and irresponsible."

Shaheen said Obama's candor on the subject would "open the door" to further questions. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' " Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

So, readers, is this fair warning of what the big bad GOP might do? Or is Shaheen just using the GOP as cover for a story line he wants repeated?

- Ari Richter

UPDATE II: Much more here.

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Do New Hampshirites even have any idea just how racist Billy Shaheen's comments appear to be? It looks REALLY bad from here. By speculating that Obama will be asked "Did you ever give drugs to anyone?" and "Did you sell them to anyone?", he actually implied that Obama needs to be asked those questions. It's clear that Billy was not trying to help Obama prepare for the general election here! There's nothing wrong with bringing up a candidate's past drug use, but tinging it with subtle "lots of black guys are drug dealers" racial overtones is sickening.
I am embarrassed for New Hampshire that someone like Shaheen is representing you this way on the national stage. These are the New Hampshire primaries we're talking about here...The nation's eyes are on you! Don't lead us to believe that yours is a state full of racists.
Steve Waterman
Kansas City, MO