“There is only one campaign in this race that has actually engaging in the very practice that Senator Obama is decrying, and it’s his. We have no idea what Mr. Novak’s item is about and reject it totally.”
Clinton spokesman Jay Carson walked in seconds later, smiling as reporters pointed their recorders at his mouth. He then quickly picked up where the statement left off.
“A Democratic candidate should be smart enough not to fall into traps,” he said, adding, “And if you don’t know how to do that in a primary you are going to be in a world of hurt in the general. Barack Obama should get back to or should try to get back to the politics he espoused early on in this campaign about being hopeful.”
As Ms. Clinton was being introduced on stage, the Obama campaign sent another statement, this time from campaign manger David Plouffe.
“The ‘experience’ America’s looking for today is not the practiced Washington art of evasion and deflection,” he said. “Once again, the Clinton campaign refuses to answer two simple, direct questions: Are “agents” of their campaign spreading these rumors? And do they have “scandalous” information that they are not releasing?
“Yes or no?”
A small scrum surrounded Mr. Carson again. This time he smiled even more broadly. “No and no,” he replied.
After that the Obama press office went silent.
Then Ms. Clinton delivered a shot of her own from the stage.
“We had a great debate here the other night,” she said. “It’s exciting to be in Vegas where a lot of things happen. And this time what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.”
The yellow shirts laughed.
“We finally got into some real issues,” she added. “For example, my health care plan covers every American. Senator Obama’s doesn’t. He didn’t make that decision. Well I think it takes strength and experience to make the tough decisions.”
“She’s holding her own against all those guys,” Sandra Fincher, a 64-year-old Clinton supporter and the wife of steelworker, said at the rally. “They’re afraid of her.”
After the steel workers’event, Clinton drove over to a rally in the cafeteria of the Rancho High School, where a giant mural of the school’s Ranch Rams stood across from homemade signs reading “Hope, Respect, Clinton” and “Hispanos Unidos con Hillary.”
She spoke to the mostly Latino audience about how Nevada had been chosen as a primary state to “show the diversity of America,” how she was “proud to have so much Latino support” and how important Las Vegas was to her because “we can’t afford any bystanders.
Her voice was getting hoarse and time was getting tight. She took some questions, mostly fawning, and received flowers from people in the crowd. (She left them behind on a blue seat backstage.) Her caravan sped off to the airport, for California and then Iowa, where the Obama campaign still had reason to be hopeful.