Using a curious tactic in a Democratic primary season dominated by liberals, Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday accused Barack Obama of being too far left to be elected president -- citing a decade-old questionnaire indicating Obama once opposed the death penalty and backed socialized medicine.
The attack, coming as a surprising new ABC News-Washington Post poll showed her national lead over Obama widening to 30 points, is part of Clinton's strategy of portraying Obama as too inexperienced to run for the White House.
In 1996, Obama, then running for the State Senate, filled out an election questionnaire for the liberal, good-government Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization. On the forms, Obama proclaimed his support for a "single-payer" health insurance system, even though he now supports a system based on private insurance. He also answered "yes" when asked if he backed state bills that would ban the possession of all handguns. He he now backs stringent but limited controls.
In a statement, a campaign spokeswoman said, "Obama never saw or approved" the document, and the health care, capital punishment and gun control answers weren't consistent with his stances, then or now.
"It was filled out by an aide who has conceded she never got Obama's signoff," the spokeswoman said. "Some of the answers accurately reflect Obama's position. Others do not."
Obama says he supports capital punishment for severe crimes, but once favored a temporary moratorium after a handful of capital cases were found to have been based on faulty evidence.
Clinton aides suggested the questionnaire proved Obama tailored his views to suit the political climate -- a charge he's often leveled at her.
In an e-mail entitled "Obama Forced to Defend Electability in Face ... of New Questionnaire," Clinton's press office reprinted passages from an online story claiming Obama has since been criticized for "abandoning" the stands as he "rose through the ranks."
A Insider Advantage snapshot poll taken over the weekend, as Obama and Oprah Winfrey appeared at a rally in Columbia, showed Obama leading Clinton 28 percent to 22 percent, with a 5-point margin of error.
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