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Clash of the Democratic Titans

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama exchanged sharp words in the South Carolina debate tonight.(AFP/Getty Images).

By Anne E. Kornblut
Did Bill Clinton sneak into the Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach? It felt like it during the first hour, at least. Sen. Barack Obama took on the former president directly, accusing him of saying things that are "not factually accurate" on the campaign trail, including his charge that Obama did not oppose the war from the start and that his war stance was a "fairy tale."

And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton did not immediately separate herself from her husband, referring jointly to their charges against Obama as "our criticism."

"I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama said.

In the most explosive Democratic debate so far, Clinton and Obama veered from the assigned topic in the first segment -- the economy -- to hurl personal slurs and compare records. Clinton accused Obama of consorting with a "slum landlord," and repeated her charges that Obama had spoken favorably the week earlier about Republicans in the 1980s. Obama retorted that he had referred to Reagan as having ideas in the 1980s -- not that they were good ones. And he flung back a reminder of her past, saying that while he had worked on grassroots development, she had been "a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart." (Clinton was the first woman to sit on the board of the Arkansas-based conglomerate.)

For the first time, Clinton said that she and her husband had not accused Obama of not being against the war -- only that he was inconsistent on that point. The pair fired back at each other repeatedly, drawing applause from the audience, and leaving moderator Wolf Blitzer at moments gasping to intervene.

"We're just getting warmed up," Clinton said.

Chris Cillizza is also blogging the debate. Read more over at The Fix.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 21, 2008; 8:55 PM ET
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