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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."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 1, 2008; 12:42 PM ET
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Obama has just been crowned the most liberal senetor of 2007 and been emdorsed by MoveOn. How can he won general election with a far left position, a thin resume and a funny middle name? How many indies will vote for a far left? Since when did a far left ever won? Gore, Kerry?

Posted by: kjlover46 | February 2, 2008 1:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm a conservative Independent that has voted Republican in the last seven presidential elections.

There is no way I will vote for Hillary. There is no way I will vote for McCain.

I would seriously consider Obama before sitting out the 2008 election.

Posted by: david.4141 | February 1, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Obama's comments. Hillary cannot win against McCain because she has nothing new to offer -she contradicts the democratic offering of change and truth in government. Moreover, I, for one, respect the U.S. Constitution and cringe at the notion of a co-president in Bill Clinton. The republican ladies will have a field day wearing blue dresses and berets. Yes, the Clintons are a known entity, a disaster!

Posted by: Marie4 | February 1, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I really like Hillary. Seeing her there one on one with Barrack was defiantly positive and reaffirming to all that is good in the American Dream. Indeed as he spoke and she gazed, it really said volumes as to how her husband was elected President. She carried him across the goal line. It shows now in a real modern race where he has to be

She is very good, lovely, knowledgeable and highly historic. It would be great to see her on the ticket.
Barrack's big ace is energy, excitement and global appeal.. His wife, in a way like Jackie, helps him immensely, along with Oprha. This is something new that makes America look better in competitive times around the world.
He can open the door that allows team America to roll in and take the moral high ground along with the business and allegiance.
New voters mean more and new votes, in the general election, for the ticket and The Congress. I believe this is real bottom line of the elect ability view in Mr. Obama's favor.
Those Red state Governors and Senators know something, as do Caroline and Ted Kennedy. This is about more than clubhouse or group politics, this is about The New Frontier for the Twenty First Century. - A war of ideas, hopes and the dream. Mr. Obama is a great communicator, with Hillary sitting beside him, or say Gov Sebelius as a stand in, it looks like a serious one two punch.
The Republicans should be worried - inspiration, momentum and history are tough to counter. Their best hope to match and challenge this kind of historic imagery is a McCain/Rice ticket, which would carry some history and imagery of it's own

Posted by: empireport | February 1, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

priusdriver writes
"He could call him a little boy that never served his country, and there will be a lot of people that will respond to that."

When Obama was the prime age for enlisting, there were no wars being fought. The military was being downsized. What was a plausible criticsim of the vietnam-era youths who dodged the draft, is less relevant as the size of the armed forces shrinks & people in the service represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the population.

Posted by: bsimon | February 1, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Hillary voted for the war is an asset in a debate with McCain not a liablity - b/c it takes the issue away from him.

If Obama goes head to head with McCain, McCain can paint him as a liberal peace-nic that would wave the white flag of defeat and would be unfit to be commander in chief.

He could call him a little boy that never served his country, and there will be a lot of people that will respond to that.

I don't agree with McCain, but I think he will crush Obama.

And, to Obabma's other point - that he's compteting with the same independent's that McCain is... how exactly is that a 100% plus? What if they all decide McCain is the better independent? Then Obama has to come crawling back to the democratic base that he has been dismissing for the past year?

Not pretty.

Go Democrats! Go Hillary!

Posted by: priusdriver | February 1, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Obama is correct on two points. First, Hillary's Iraq vote, whether it was sincere or designed to position her as a hawk in a post 9/11 election, weakens her significantly on that issue, as it did John Kerry in 2004.
Second, there is a huge segment of the electorate who simply consider her too divisive. There is a core center, however, who might look to either Obama or McCain as being able to substantially unite the country.

Posted by: MShaughn | February 1, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton will have a really difficult time using the experience argument with Senator McCain. When she was graduating from law school, He was a year away from graduating from his stay in a POW camp. It's too bad, as a woman, I would love to see a woman in the White House. Senator Obama makes an excellent point when he says that Sen Clinton just does not attract independents. It will not do to rely on people voting against the Republican candidate, instead of FOR a candidate that energizes and motivates like Sen Obama has proven he can. It's easy to dismiss the power of an inspiring candidate, but on a purely practical level, he is also our best chance to break the political gridlock that has stagnated and polluted our great country.

Posted by: luckysmomma | February 1, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

It's the best reason to vote for him. How can Hillary match up with McCain on the war and not cede the argument to him because of her vote? And Obama will look like a fresh and committed face compared the the haggard McCain...

Posted by: parkerfl | February 1, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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