Obama courts S.C.; Clinton eyes Feb. 5

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses the current economic news and attacks Sen. Hillary Clinton's economic positions during a speech on the campus of Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Tuesday.

LEXINGTON — A day after Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama engaged in an often-contentious nationally televised debate in Myrtle Beach, he was back campaigning throughout the state while his biggest opponent left to focus elsewhere.

Obama continued stumping throughout South Carolina, whose primary is Saturday, while Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York has pulled out from the state and is looking ahead to Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. She flew to California to accept the backing of the United Farm Workers Union, although the endorsement has not been publicly announced.

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, stayed behind to draw in support.

Obama made stops in Greenwood, Lexington and Orangeburg on Tuesday.

He told about 300 people at his town hall-style meeting here that, considering how Monday's debate was often heated and inundated with personal jabs, that's the type of politics he would like to change.

The Illinois senator has built his campaign around the prospect of change and reiterated his goals Tuesday.

"I've been very specific about the kind of change I intend to bring about," he said. "I want to bring the country together to get things done. I don't think that engaging in constant partisan bickering solves our problems."

Obama at times alluded to the debate much of Monday's feuding between himself and Hillary Clinton was a good example of "the same ol' Washington tactics" that he wants to rid of.

The two argued bitterly and in personal terms over issues such as the Iraq war and Bill Clinton's role in the campaign. The two also traded accusations over Hillary Clinton's work as a lawyer for anti-union Wal-Mart and Obama's relationship with a political patron facing fraud charges.

The morning after the debate, the back-and-forth between the two leading Democrats continued unabated.

Obama told reporters in a conference call that he felt the Clintons have been distorting his record and "attacking me in ways that are not accurate."

However, Hillary Clinton accused Obama of "looking for a fight" in their rancorous debate and suggested her presidential rival acted out of frustration over primary campaign losses in New Hampshire and Nevada. She said Obama's various criticisms at the debate were "rehearsed points."

"I think what we saw last night was that he's very frustrated," she said. "I believe that the events of the last 10 or so days, the outcome of New Hampshire and Nevada, have apparently convinced him to adopt a different strategy. He clearly came — he telegraphed it, he talked about it — he clearly came last night looking for a fight. He was determined and launched right in."

Clinton restated her argument that Obama was unwilling to answer hard questions about his record, from his opposition to the Iraq war but support for military budgets to his "present" votes as a member of the Illinois legislature.

Obama countered that this was all part of Clinton's strategy.

"The necessary part of this campaign is to make sure that we're getting accurate information to voters about people's respective records," he said

His campaign announced Tuesday it's forming a "truth squad" in South Carolina to clarify any misleading comments the Clintons have made about his record.

At the town hall-style meeting, Obama said that while his critics say he lacks experience and is perhaps naïve in how he's based his campaign on hope, he said that, in lieu of the recent political squabbling, that is why he is pushing so much for change.

"The biggest gamble we could take right now is to have the same ol' cast of characters play the same ol' Washington games over and over again, and somehow expect to get a different result," he said.

Obama also talked about his plans for health care, education, energy systems and economic relief.

Charlton Whipple of Irmo said afterward that he hasn't quite made up his mind on who he'll vote for Saturday, but he does like the way Obama handled himself under fire Monday night.

As far as his thoughts on the political bantering, Whipple said, "That's just the political process."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Tenisha Waldo at twaldo@postandcourier.com or 937-5744.