WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called Republican presidential candidate John McCain not a maverick but a "mimic" of President Bush.
Clinton made the remarks at a Human Rights Campaign dinner, where she was filling in for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden. Biden canceled his weekend campaign events because his wife's mother is ill. Clinton spoke by satellite from Los Angeles to a few thousand people who attended the national gay rights group event.
Clinton said Biden called and asked her to fill in for him because of the family emergency. Rather than sharing her thoughts, she said, "I want to share with you the eloquent remarks that Joe had prepared."
Clinton sought to tie McCain to Bush, saying the Arizona senator offered voters "more of the same."
"He's not a maverick. He's a mimic," she said.
She noted that McCain doesn't support extending job discrimination and hate-crimes laws to cover sexual orientation and supports the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Clinton and Obama were rivals in a turbulent Democratic primary season as they both fought for their party's presidential nomination. She had argued the Illinois senator lacked the experience to be president, a claim the McCain campaign highlighted in its response to her remarks at Saturday's dinner.
"Senator Clinton would be more believable if she'd mimic her own statements that Barack Obama is too inexperienced and lacks the key readiness to lead," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
Clinton has since declared her support for Obama's candidacy, has urged her own backers to rally behind him and has been campaigning on his behalf in battleground states.
She said Saturday that Americans can choose in the November election whether the nation takes steps toward "securing equality and dignity for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
"Or we can choose four more years of the same failed policies, four more years of the same small-minded governance, four more years that look just like the last eight," she added.
The Obama campaign has repeatedly tried to tie McCain to Bush in voters' minds, an approach GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin portrayed in a debate with Biden on Thursday as looking backward rather than forward.
Clinton's comments came as the McCain campaign stepped up attacks on Obama's character. Palin on Saturday accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists" because of an association with a former '60s radical. The Obama campaign called Palin's remarks offensive but unsurprising given news reports about the McCain campaign's come-from-behind game plan.