by John McCormick and Rick Pearson, updated
MILWAUKEE -- With Barack Obama pinned down in Chicago, Hillary Clinton tried to mount something of a surprise attack this afternoon in Wisconsin.
But after getting to the area above Wausau, her campaign plane could not land and was forced back here.
As a major snowstorm wreaked havoc on the schedules of the two Democratic presidential candidates, Clinton had tried to make it to a campaign event in north-central Wisconsin.
Obama cancelled his only Wisconsin appearance scheduled for Sunday on what is the final weekend day before Tuesday's primary.
With the candidates slowed down by weather much of the day, their surrogates took to the telephone lines and airwaves to keep their campaigns moving ahead despite the snow.
Obama's campaign criticized a mailer sent to Wisconsin households by Clinton that suggests his health care plan would leave million uninsured.
"I was really shocked and very surprised that Sen. Clinton would put that pamphlet out," Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts told reporters. "It does a great disservice…to have that kind of distortion, misrepresentation and what I think is basically fear-mongering."
Kennedy, whose brother was propelled forward in his presidential bid by the 1960 Wisconsin primary, said he would not back Obama, if he did not think he had the best chance of passing universal health care.
"They both effectively have universal health care programs," Kennedy said.
Clinton's campaign, however, has repeatedly argued that Obama's plan would leave 15 million uninsured because it does not require all to sign-up for coverage.
The flap over the Clinton mailing follows one from two weeks ago when Clinton criticized an Obama mailer that showed a young couple sitting at a kitchen table and appearing puzzled over a stack of bills.
"Hillary's plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it," that mailing said.
The former first lady's campaign complained the message resembled the "Harry and Louise" TV ad campaign waged by the insurance industry in the early 1990s that helped kill a health care reform plan she pushed.
Clinton, meanwhile, charged that Obama has abandoned a pledge to limit his spending and use public financing, should his party nominate him and should his Republican opponent agree to do the same.
“That’s not change you can believe in,” Howard Wolfson said, mocking an Obama slogan.
Obama was asked about the matter Friday and said his campaign had simply sought a Federal Election Commission ruling as to whether he could participate in public financing, after opting out in the primary campaign.
The program limits spending by candidates and would provide about $85 million for the general election, paid for by a tax form check-off program.
"It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I am locking in to something when I don’t even know if the other side will agree to it," Obama said. "I’m not the nominee yet."
Obama had indicated late last year on a candidate questionnaire by the Midwest Democracy Network that he would forgo private funding in the general election if his major opponents agreed as well.
With ice and heavy snow in Wisconsin, Clinton cancelled an appearance in Green Bay and her campaign was trying to determine how much more time to spend in the state, before focusing on upcoming March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio.
As Obama enjoyed a snow day in Chicago after canceling his event in Kaukauna, appearances in the state by three high-profile politicians on his behalf were also scrubbed. They included Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Not wanting to seem like weather wimps, Obama's campaign stressed that state officials had discouraged travel in Wisconsin.