President Clinton, seeking to sharpen his differences with rival Bob Dole in the last two weeks of the campaign, took after the former senator Monday for his efforts to abolish the federal Education Department.
And in a shift in strategy, the Clinton campaign began firing back at Dole for his relentless criticism of Democratic fund raising and his call over the weekend for comprehensive campaign finance reforms.
“His conversion to the cause of campaign finance reform this late in the game is certainly a political deathbed conversion,” said White House press secretary Mike McCurry. “He’s struggling to find any kind of issue.”
On both issues, the Clinton campaign reinforced its messages with TV commercials. One brands Dole “wrong” on education issues, while the other calls him “wrong” for opposing many campaign finance reforms when he was in the Senate.
“Bob Dole. Desperate attacks,” the newest ad says.
Addressing a rain-soaked rally at the Cuyahoga Community College near Cleveland, the president said his Republican challenger had opposed creation of the Education Department in the first place and now sides with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in a drive to dismantle it.
“Just imagine what it would be like in the United States, alone of all the great nations, to start the 21st century with no one in the president’s Cabinet to speak up for the education of our children,” Clinton said.
“They’re wrong,” he said of Dole and Gingrich, “and we’re right. We need a Department of Education.”
Clinton long has included education among his pillars for the 21st century which have become the thrust of his campaign for reelection. But in the waning days of the race, McCurry said, the president will be “summing up and staking out” the two candidates’ differences in more detail.