Feb. 24, 2008— -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has been trying to chip away at Sen. Hillary Clinton's lead in Ohio primary polls by attacking the North American Free Trade Agreement, one of former President Clinton's major legacies — which unions in Ohio say has cost them jobs.
"She has essentially presented herself as co-president during the Clinton years," Obama told supporters in Loraine, Ohio. "The notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn't politically convenient doesn't make sense."
Obama honed his attack on NAFTA in Ohio, where union households comprise a quarter of Democratic voters. Since the end of 2000, non-farm employment in Ohio fell by 209,400 jobs, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition — the worst showing since the Great Depression.
President Clinton was supposed to be Hillary's not-so-secret weapon, but Obama has belittled his legacy — and the former president has done so, as well, in his own way, seeming to marginalize Obama as "the black candidate" last month in South Carolina. Since that January primary, Clinton, D-N.Y., has badly lost the black vote to Obama in every primary or caucus.
Although her husband's relationship with the African-American community was one of his historic strengths, Saturday night in New Orleans, Hillary Clinton apologized for the remarks.
"If anyone was offended by anything that was said, whether it was meant or not, whether it was misinterpreted or not, then, obviously, I regret that," she told the annual State of the Black Union conference hosted by PBS's Tavis Smiley.
Sen. Clinton took a lighter tone in Rhode Island Sunday afternoon, mocking Obama's oratory.
"Now, I could stand up here and say let's just get everybody together, let's get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing," she said. "And everyone will know that we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect."
But if Clinton has not been able to put Obama on the defensive, Republicans are hoping to do so, questioning his patriotism, making hay out of his not putting his hand over his heart last summer during the national anthem and his removal of his American flag lapel pin.
Last week his wife Michelle told a Milwaukee rally, "for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."
Obama brushed aside the attempts to question his patriotism. "The way I respond to it is with the truth – that I owe everything I am to this country," he said.
Obama said he would push back against questions of his patriotism by saying Republicans are the ones who presided over a war which our troops did not get the body armor they needed fast enough.
"We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism," Obama said.
Sunlen Miller, Greg McCown, Eloise Harper and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.