As Barack Obama and John Edwards saw themselves falling farther behind Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, they came out firing against the senator from New York and former First Lady in the debate at Drexel University Tuesday night.
"Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that's corrupt in Washington, D.C.," said Edwards, a former North Carolina senator. "She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she'll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq."
Illinois Senator Obama came out of the gates focusing on a major issue from the 2004 election -- flip-flopping.
"Senator Clinton, in her campaign, I think has been for NAFTA previously," Obama said. "Now she's against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago, and then most recently has taken a different position. She voted for a war, to authorize sending troops into Iraq, and then later said this was a war for diplomacy."
As Obama and former Edwards led the charge in aggressively highlighting not only their differences from Clinton, but also her voting history on Iraq and more recently Iran, Clinton tried to divert attention to their common enemy: Republicans.
"I don't think the Republicans got the message that I'm voting and sounding like them," Clinton said. "If you watched their debate last week, I seemed to be the topic of great conversation and consternation. And that's for a reason -- because I have stood against George Bush and his failed policies. ... And I think Democrats know that."
Attention was turned not only to Clinton's policies, but also her electability.
"Whether it's fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the American public that say they're not going to vote for her," Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd said.
"One last point I want to make -- part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having," Obama said. "It is the fight that we've been through since the '90s."
Clinton was questioned about her stances on everything from Iraq to the communications between her and former President Bill Clinton during her time as first lady. Though she held firm to her stances, she seemed to be shaken a little as the debate went along and her fellow candidates, along with debate moderators Brian Williams and Tim Russert, pressed her on several issues where she has taken a moderate stance or changed her views since becoming a presidential candidate.
The candidates did find consensus on many of the major issues. All the candidates expressed the need to end the war in Iraq in a timely manner, though Clinton was again pressed on the fact that she has refused to set a timeline. All seven also spoke in favor of diplomacy rather than military action as a solution in the war on terror. The three leading candidates, along with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, spoke in favor of universal health care.
The candidates universally opposed nuclear proliferation in Iran, a country that has become a hot-button issue in light of the recent resolution -- voted for by Clinton -- labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Obama missed the vote while campaigning.
While Kucinich advocated eliminating nuclear weapons and power worldwide, Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden both emphasized the threat of Pakistan rather than Iran.
"The fact of the matter is, the Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium," Biden said. "But the Pakistanis have hundreds -- thousands of kilograms of highly enrched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then that's a bad bargain."
Forty-seven percent of Drexel students, voting in a poll on open-vote.com, declared Obama to be the winner of the debate; 26 percent of people voting in an MSNBC online poll selected Obama as the winner, with 23 percent voting for Clinton and 20 percent voting for Edwards, as of 11:54 p.m.
Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel was not permitted to participate in the debate due to not meeting polling and fund-raising requirements.
© 2007 U-WIRE via U-WIRE