Obama Walking a Fine Line Engaging Clinton

One week ago, over coffee and a Sunday paper, people read that Barack Obama intended to start confronting Hillary Clinton more forcefully, upping the intensity to delineate their differences.

"Now is the time," he told the New York Times. "It is absolutely true that we have to make these distinctions clearer. ... And I will not shy away from doing that."

People were primed for a fight based on the interview.

Let's get ready to rumble?

The Clinton campaign says based on the week that's transpired since that interview, it's clear he's already in full fight.

"Sen. Obama has officially abandoned the politics of hope in favor of the kinds of attacks one typically sees from politicians trying to revive their flagging campaigns," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer told ABC News.

He added that Obama is now, "basing his whole campaign on attacking Sen. Clinton."

But the Obama camp says don't hold your breath for that all-out rumble.

"Sen. Obama has and will continue to demonstrate important policy contrasts with Sen. Clinton," said Obama Spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He believes the American people deserve to know the choices between the candidates and has demonstrated where he disagrees with her on issues like Iran and Social Security, and will continue to."

But she added, "Anyone who thinks cheap punches is the only way to lay out the difference between candidates clearly underestimates the intelligence of voters."

So which has it been: Has Obama stepped into the center of the political ring, which sometimes can get personal, or is he more comfortable merely shadow boxing?

Based upon the last seven days, the answer may be in the middle. Some say he's walking a fine line when highlighting the differences with Clinton; and being on the attack in a much more direct way at times. But he's also holding back, being careful to uphold the "politics of hope" he's promised.

If anything, Obama appears to have been on the offensive against Clinton more in frequency than in force, more esotericly than exact. It's a little bit of both, but not all of either.

The week brought a slew of print interviews, media appearances, slightly re-jiggered stump speeches and one highly publicized debate showing the mixed bag, with Obama drawing up new differences and slightly increased rhetoric, but not keeping a somewhat timid approach to critique Clinton.

Obama brought some heat Tuesday in Philadelphia during the Democratic debate, accusing Clinton of shifting positions when politically convenient.

"[Clinton] has been for NAFTA previously, now she's against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago and then most recently has taken a different position. She voted for a war, to authorize sending troops into Iraq, and then later said this was a [vote] for diplomacy."

Obama also quickly challenged Clinton's answer on making public the documents from her time as first lady.

"We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history," Obama said. "And not releasing, I think, these records -- at the same time, Hillary, as you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experiences -- I think is a problem."

The fallout from Tuesday's debate also provided fresh fodder for more attacks on Clinton -- as Obama hit the TV circuit with a renewed tone and direct criticism of Clinton.

In an interview with the "Today Show" Obama criticized Clinton's response when challenged at the debate.

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