White House hopeful Barack Obama came out firing against his tag-team Clinton opponents Wednesday as he battled to regain the initiative in the bad-tempered Democratic race.
Heading into South Carolina's Democratic primary on Saturday, the Illinois senator all but accused Bill Clinton of lying as he countered the former president's outspoken campaigning on behalf of his wife Hillary.
"The only thing I want to make sure of is that when he goes after me, that he goes after me on the basis of facts and policy differences, and, you know, stuff isn't just made up," Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America" program.
In another appearance on NBC's "Today Show," the first Africa-American with a viable shot at the White House denied that Bill Clinton was getting to him psychologically.
"It's just that, I think, in the Clinton campaign, they have had former president Clinton delivering a bunch of inaccurate statements about my record. So, naturally, I've got to make sure that those are corrected," he said.
Bad blood between the two campaigns spilled out into the open late Monday at a Democratic debate, when Obama and the former first lady accused each other of dishonesty, policy U-turns and campaign trickery.
Hillary Clinton was campaigning Wednesday in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with an eye on the big states that could decide the Democratic nomination on "Super Tuesday," February 5.
She denied she was ceding South Carolina to Obama, where overwhelming black support has propelled the Illinois senator to a 19-point lead over Clinton, according to a new Zogby poll.
The poll put Obama on 43 percent to Clinton's 24, while former vice presidential nominee John Edwards trailed with 15 percent despite being born in the state.
But Clinton could take heart from a Field Poll survey in delegate-rich California, the biggest state voting on Super Tuesday, which gave her a 39-27 percent lead over Obama among likely Democratic and independent voters.
On Tuesday, the New York senator went on a 20-hour swing through California and Arizona, and said Obama's new line of attack showed he was "very frustrated" after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada.
"He clearly came last night looking for a fight, and he was determined and launched right in," Clinton said of Monday's debate in South Carolina, while also defending husband Bill's strident role.
But Senator John Kerry, the Democrats' defeated nominee in 2004 who is backing Obama, angrily decried "Swiftboating" tactics -- a reference to smears on his Vietnam war record that hurt him against President George W. Bush.
The top Democrats did find common ground in assailing a White House plan to shore up the ailing economy, as global markets suffered turmoil on fears of a US recession.
Both portrayed the Bush stimulus plan worth up to 150 billion dollars as too little, too late, and of no benefit to millions of Americans on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
Republican candidates, campaigning full-bore in Florida before its primary next Tuesday, stuck to longer-term prescriptions of lower taxes and spending to heal the world's biggest economy.
Arizona Senator John McCain, after winning South Carolina's Republican primary last Saturday, picked up a clutch of new endorsements including one from General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led allied forces in the first Gulf War.
"Senator John McCain has served our country with honor in war and in peace. He has demonstrated the type of courageous leadership our country sorely needs at this time. For that reason, he has my complete support," Schwarzkopf said.
For former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Florida is a make-or-break moment after he sat out the early nominating contests.
"What I make of it is, it's a really close race," Giuliani said late Tuesday on the Fox Business Network as polls showed him slipping behind McCain in both Florida and his home state of New York.
"John McCain is a strong candidate just like the other Republicans are strong candidates. I happen to believe that I would be the best, by far, for lowering taxes," he said.