Stakes High Going into Hollywood Democratic Debate
By Anne E. Kornblut
Sen. Barack Obama described the Democratic contest as "the past versus the future" as he squared off against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday night -- a dramatic one-on-one encounter coming just five days before a sweep of contests on Feb. 5.
With just one challenger left, Clinton encouraged the audience to imagine the next inauguration -- and to ask themselves which of the Democratic front-runners would do a better job from the outset.
The candidates, each with two primary victories in hand, fell back on the paradigm that has defined the race -- change versus experience -- but drew sharp policy differences. Clinton seized a chance to portray Obama's health care proposal as providing inadequate coverage, while Obama said Clinton has not explained how she would force people who cannot afford coverage to buy it. But the image of Obama and Clinton, seated side by side onstage, offered the starkest representation of the state of a Democratic campaign that has been waged for more than a year and is now locked in a virtual tie.
"At this moment, the question is: How do we take the country in a new direction? How do we get past the divisions that have prevented us from solving these problems year after year?" Obama said in his opening remarks.
"Well, on Jan. 20 th , 2009, the next president of the United States will be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, and I as a Democrat fervently hope you are looking at that next president -- either Barack or I will raise our hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States," Clinton said in her introduction. "And then when the celebrations are over, the next president will walk into the Oval Office and waiting there will be a stack of problems."
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