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Clinton co-chair raises Barack Obama drug use

December 12, 2007 | 11:54 pm

For the second time in less than a month a Clinton campaign official has warned of unsavory information in the background of their chief opponent, Barack Obama.

Billy Shaheen, co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, suggested to a Washington Post reporter that Republicans would "jump on" Obama's open admission in his book, "Dreams from My Father," 11 years ago that he used cocaine and marijuana during high school and college.

"There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome," Shaheen said. Of course, by bringing up the subject and pre-emptively blaming Republicans, Shaheen can try to appear as if he's looking out for the party's chances in a general election and not really threatening use of those admissions by his own candidate and fellow Democrat.

An Obama spokesman said the Clintons were "recycling old news" and that Obama had "talked about the lessons he's learned from these mistakes with young people all across the country."

Back in mid-November columnist Robert Novak wrote that two unidentified senior Clinton campaign officials told him the New York senator had scandalous information on Obama but was not going to use it for the moment. The report created quite a weekend stir then because the Clinton machine has a reputation for playing such political hardball.

At that time Obama himself issued a statement warning against such tactics and said they would not deter his efforts to combat old-style Washington politics. The Clinton campaign denied any knowledge of the threats.

Today, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said "the (Shaheen) comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way." Late today Shaheen agreed and said he regretted making them. Recently, two Clinton staffers in Iowa were dismissed when word emerged they were forwarding e-mails raising questions about Obama being a Muslim.

Are these mounting signs of desperation in the Clinton camp as it witnesses its once-substantial poll leads -- and alleged inevitability -- wane? The latest political pushing also came on a day when a new CNN/WMUR poll showed a statistical dead-heat in New Hampshire with Clinton, who once held a large lead, at 31% and Obama at 30%.

--Andrew Malcolm