By Caren Bohan
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected Hillary Clintonâ€™s claims to be a champion of working families and portrayed his presidential rival as a defender of corporate interests and the status quo.
Obama, speaking to a Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention one day after Clinton appeared before the labor group, said the New York senator was too closely tied to corporate lobbyists to bring real change to Washington.
â€œIâ€™m the only candidate in this race whoâ€™s actually worked to take power away from lobbyists by passing historic ethics reforms in Illinois and in the U.S. Senate. And Iâ€™m the only candidate who isnâ€™t taking a dime from Washington lobbyists,â€ said Obama, an Illinois senator.
He mocked Clintonâ€™s recent efforts to compare herself to Rocky Balboa, the underdog boxer featured in the â€œRockyâ€ movies.
â€œWe all love Rocky, but Rocky was fiction. And so is the idea that someone can fight for working people and at the same time embrace the broken system in Washington, where corporate lobbyists use their clout to shape laws to their liking,â€ Obama said.
Obama and Clinton are in a hard fight for the Democratic nomination to face Republican John McCain in Novemberâ€™s presidential election. They had spent the last few days training their fire on McCain rather than each other.
They both campaigned in Pennsylvania on Wednesday ahead of the next showdown there on April 22.
Clinton, in Pittsburgh, announced a proposal to eliminate tax incentives for companies that send jobs to foreign countries and provide $7 billion a year in new tax benefits and investments for companies that create U.S. jobs.
â€œI believe our government should get out of the business of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas, and get back into the business of rewarding companies that create good, high-wage jobs — with good benefits — right here in America,â€ she said.
Polls give Clinton a solid lead in the state three weeks before the vote. A Quinnipiac University poll showed her with a 9-point lead on Obama in Pennsylvania.
Obama picked up the endorsement on Wednesday of Lee Hamilton, a former Indiana congressman and an influential authority on foreign relations. Hamilton co-chaired two blue-ribbon commissions that investigated the September 11 attacks and advised President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq.
His support offers a boost for Obama, who has faced charges from Clinton that he is too inexperienced to be commander in chief.
McCain assailed Obamaâ€™s foreign policy credentials as well on Wednesday. â€œI know heâ€™s inexperienced and I know heâ€™s got a lack of knowledgeâ€ about national security, the Arizona senator said.
In the Democratic race, Obama leads Clinton in pledged delegates who will help choose the nominee at the August party convention, but neither is likely to win enough delegates in state contests to clinch the nomination.
That is likely to leave the decision up to nearly 800 superdelegates — elected officials and party insiders who are free to back any candidate.
Obama has worked in recent days to connect with the stateâ€™s sizable bloc of blue-collar workers, stopping by bars, restaurants and factories to mingle. He told the union group he understood their concerns and would fight for their interests.
â€œImagine a president whose lifeâ€™s story is like so many of your own, who knows what itâ€™s like to go to college on student loans, and see his mother get sick and worry that maybe she canâ€™t pay the medical bills,â€ he said.
McCain, a former Navy fighter pilot who is on a week-long tour to highlight his life story and military background, visited the Naval Academy, where he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.
He said he has begun compiling a list of names of potential vice presidential running mates.
â€œIâ€™d like to get it done as early as possible,â€ McCain said.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Steve Holland, writing by John Whitesides; editing by David Wiessler)