Obama Presses Electability Argument
By Alec MacGillis
LOS ANGELES -- Just in case there was any notion that last night's Democrat debate was all sweetness and light, Barack Obama made clear this morning that he thought he had scored some points that bore repeating.
He told reporters at a press conference here that he thought that "substantive" differences had emerged on three points -- Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, their disagreement over individual mandates for health insurance, and the need to push back at special interests in Washington.
Discussing the war in Iraq, he challenged Clinton's explanation last night for why she voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Carl Levin in 2002 that would have required President Bush to return to the United Nations one more time to seek approval before launching an attack against Iraq. Clinton said last night that this would have ceded too much power to the United Nations; Obama today said the amendment did no such thing. And he made the claim, offered last night and in a hard-edged speech this week in Denver, that he would be in a better position to debate John McCain in a general election because he, Obama, had been opposed to the war from the start, unlike Clinton, who has moved to a position of opposition.
"There continues to be a suggestion that it was not a vote for war," he said of Clinton's vote on the force authorization. He added: "The reason I point this out is that there's going to be a contest with John McCain or someone who has been very firm about his position on the war."
A few moments later, Obama again pressed the electability point, saying that primary results so far suggested that he was winning some voters -- independents and even Republicans -- who would not necessarily vote for Clinton in the general election, whereas she was winning core Democratic voters who would likely vote for the Democratic ticket no matter what.
"I believe I am attracting new voters and independent voters in a way that senator Clinton cannot do. That's particularly important if Senator McCain is the nominee," he said. "I'm confident that I will get her votes if I'm the nominee. It's not clear that she would get my votes if I were the nominee."
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