Clinton campaign officials just held a conference call to explain a letter campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle has sent to Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, in which she demands that Barack Obama take down an ad running in New Hampshire because it falsely claims his health care plan would "cover everyone."
"Your advertisement not only contradicts the judgment of health care experts, but public statements by your campaign and your candidate," Doyle writes in the letter. "Senator Obama has pledged to put ‘honesty first’ in this campaign. In that spirit I respectfully request that you stop running this ad which is misleading voters in New Hampshire." On the call, Doyle added that the ad should be taken down until "Senator Obama comes up with a plan that covers everyone."
The campaign’s communications director, Howard Wolfson, added that voters were "tired of politicians who say they have a universal plan but really don’t."
The Clinton campaign argues that their plan is truly universal because it mandates health insurance coverage. Obama’s plan lacks a mandate. Many leading health care experts, some of whom advised Obama, say his falls short of universal coverage.
One major question about Clinton’s plan is how she would enforce her mandate.
In the call’s question-and-answer period, policy advisor Neera Tanden responded by saying it would be done "through default enrollment." (She gave the example of automatically enrolling someone when they visit the emergency room.) Tanden also suggested that the details of the plan, including the exact level of a premium cap designed to keep down costs, would be worked out later, partly because Clinton "understands that there is expertise in the Congress." (The last time Clinton tried to introduce health care coverage, in 1993, she shut Congress out and the results were disastrous.)
When asked why the Clinton campaign had adopted such an aggressive stance after vowing not to attack other Democrats, Wolfson said "Senator Obama and Senator Edwards have been attacking Senator Clinton on a mostly daily basis now for some time," and added "It was important for us to correct the record and make sure people knew the facts."
"That is what we are doing in this instance," he said.
UPDATE: Here’s the response from Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton:
"The Clinton campaign didn’t say a word when this ad was released a month ago, and the only thing that’s changed since then is the poll numbers. The truth is, Barack Obama would offer health coverage to every single American who can’t afford it, and he’ll do it by bringing Republicans and Democrats together like he’s done before. Rather than spending their time attacking Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign should explain how exactly they plan to order every American to buy health insurance even if they can’t afford it."