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Clinton, Obama go at it over trade

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama accuses Clinton of distancing herself from NAFTA
  • Clinton says Obama mailings spread information that is "blatantly false"
  • Ohio and Texas, two delegate-rich states, hold primaries March 4
  • Job loss, trade key issues for Ohio voters
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(CNN) -- Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton exchanged sharp words over trade as they campaigned before Ohio's crucial primary.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton says Barack Obama's camp is spreading false information about her positions.

The economy and jobs are top issues for Ohio voters, and the rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have blamed trade agreements for the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Since 2000, the state's seen nearly a 25 percent decline in manufacturing employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

Ohio, along with Texas, votes on March 4. The two states have a total of 334 delegates at stake.

Clinton's supporters have said she must win both states if she is to close the gap with Obama and stop the momentum he has built up with 11 straight wins.

She trails Obama by 69 delegates, according to CNN calculations.

Recent polls, however, show Clinton leading in Ohio.

Over the weekend, Clinton accused Obama of misrepresenting her record on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Taking a mocking swipe at the Illinois senator's campaign style, Clinton said people want actions and not words. Video Watch Clinton mock Obama »

"I could stand up here and say 'Let's just get everybody together, let's get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,' " she said Sunday while campaigning in Providence, Rhode Island. Rhode Island and Vermont also hold contests next Tuesday, but only have 36 delegates up for grabs.

Clinton struck a populist tone, saying she has made it clear that she is ambivalent about NAFTA, blasting companies for "turning their backs on Americans" while shipping jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, Obama railed on Clinton for supporting NAFTA when her husband was president. Video Watch the latest on the back-and-forth »

"Sen. Clinton has been going to great lengths on the campaign trail to distance herself from NAFTA," Obama said Sunday in Lorain, Ohio. "In her own book, Sen. Clinton called NAFTA one of 'Bill's successes' and 'legislative victories.' "

"One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don't think NAFTA has been good for America -- and I never have," he said.

The weekend feud kicked off when Clinton blasted recent mailings from the Obama camp, telling a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, an Obama mailing spread lies about her positions NAFTA. Video Watch analysts discuss latest Democratic controversy »

The mailer says Clinton was a "champion" for NAFTA while first lady, but now opposes it. NAFTA was negotiated by the first President Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Citing a 2006 issue of New York Newsday, the mailer says Clinton thought NAFTA was a "boon" to the economy. The term "boon" was actually the paper's characterization of Clinton's stance, and not a quote from her.

"Bad trade deals like NAFTA hit Ohio harder than other states. Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA," the mailer says.

A visibly angry Clinton lashed out Saturday at Obama over the campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false."

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said, adding that she is fighting to change NAFTA. Video Watch Clinton demand a 'real campaign' »

Obama "is continuing to send false and discredited mailings with information that is not true to the voters of Ohio," she said.

With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director who is reviled by Democrats.

Obama described Clinton's anger as "tactical" and defended his campaign.

"We have been subject to constant attack from the Clinton campaign, except for when we were down 20 points. And that was true in Iowa. It was true in South Carolina. It was true in Wisconsin, and it is true now," Obama said.

The spat over the literature is nothing new; the two campaigns sparred over similar mailings before Super Tuesday. Obama defended the mailings, calling them accurate and accusing Clinton of deliberately changing her position on NAFTA for political expediency. He told a crowd in a Lorain, Ohio, factory, "The fact is, she was saying great things about NAFTA until she started running for president."

Clinton challenged Obama to "meet me in Ohio, and let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign."

The two are set to debate Tuesday night in Ohio.

Bill Clinton has said that if his wife wins in Ohio and Texas, she will win her party's nomination, but, he told voters, "if you don't deliver for her, then I don't think she can be. It's all on you."

According to an average of three recent polls, Clinton leads Obama in Ohio 49 percent to 39 percent. An additional 12 percent of the state's likely Democratic primary voters said they were undecided.

The Ohio Democratic poll of polls consists of three surveys: American Research Group (February 23-24), the Ohio Poll (February 21-24), and Quinnipiac (February 18-23).

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Recent polls show a close race in Texas.

The Democratic contenders split the Super Tuesday contests on February 5, but since then, Obama has taken every contest. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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