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Obama jeers at Clinton’s gender-card parry

Newsday

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) mocked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Friday for having played the gender card, saying she cried “Don’t pick on me” after being attacked by her foes on legitimate policy issues at this week’s debate among Democratic presidential contenders.

In an interview with NBC, Obama scoffed at the New York Democrat’s complaint that she was being forced to “compete in the all-boys club” of presidential politics, saying he would never use his race -- Obama is black -- to shield him from political attacks.

Obama’s comments marked the first time that the undercurrent of identity politics has become an issue of open contention between the two trailblazing candidates.

“I am assuming and I hope that Sen. Clinton wants to be treated like everybody else,” Obama said on the “Today” show.

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Referring to debates where he has come under attack, Obama said, “I didn’t come out and say, ‘Look, I’m being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage.’ ”

Clinton, who says she wasn’t at her best during the debate, seemed to both oppose and support New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“I got a lot of questions that night, a lot more than anybody else,” she explained to a New Hampshire newspaper on Friday.

“I’d be the first to tell you that I wasn’t as effective in answering the driver’s license question as I should have been.”

Later, she stepped back from her “boys club” remark, saying, “I don’t think they’re piling on because I’m a woman. I think they’re piling on because I’m winning.”

Asked if she could take the heat of an increasingly nasty campaign, she quipped: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I’m very much at home in the kitchen.”

That was a markedly different message than the one her campaign issued after the debate when Clinton and aides invoked the gender issue.

In a fundraising e-mail to supporters Thursday, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle called her boss “one strong woman.” Clinton pollster Mark Penn predicted a backlash against Obama and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) among female voters, who make up nearly 60% of the Democratic primary electorate.

Obama said Friday: “The first time that people start challenging her point of view . . . suddenly she backs off and says, ‘Don’t pick on me.’ That is not, obviously, how we would expect her to operate if she were president.”


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