In their first and last one-on-one debate before Super Tuesday’s Feb. 5 nominating contests, Democratic rivals Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York maintained saccharine tones and mutual praise.
“I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign,” Obama said. “I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.”
Still, questions were raised during the debate, sponsored by CNN and held at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, about how each of the candidates’ respective leadership styles would differ.
Obama reiterated his consistent stance against the war in Iraq and forced Clinton to once again defend her support of the war’s initial stages.
“The question is,” Obama said, “can we make an argument that this was a conceptually flawed mission from the start, and that we need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war?”
“Clinton once again showed why the issue has been such an Achilles heel for her,” wrote Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro of MSNBC. “Obama just has an easier time talking about his position, while Clinton has to re-explain why she was for it and why she’s not for it now. If the debate were being scored like a boxing match, the first 60 minutes would have been judged as a draw, but the last 30 minutes would have been given to Obama on points, thanks to the Iraq issue.”
Clinton was also challenged on how she could bring about change if her presidency means nearly 30 years of the same two families in office.
“It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and it might take another one to clean up after the second,” the New York senator said to extended applause.
Both candidates head into the Feb. 5 voting contests with strong numbers, with Clinton slightly ahead in national polls. Their praise of one another reflected both their individual confidence and that of the Democratic party.
“When we started off, we had eight candidates on this stage. We are now down to two,” Obama said. “I think one of us two will end up being the next president of the United States.”