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Obama vs. Clinton

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) -- the two frontrunners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination -- squared off today at a gathering of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Well, sort of.

Clinton and Obama didn't appear on stage together but they did address the packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill within an hour of one another. (California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter was sandwiched in between the two headliners.)

The nearly back-to-back nature of their speeches lent itself to comparison. The winner? Clinton.

Her address focused heavily on her experience in the Senate dealing with the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and her work to protect first responders -- who are mostly fire fighters. "How about taking care of the people who have taken care of us," Clinton said to a standing ovation.

It was one of three she received during her remarks in which she appeared more defiant (and frankly, feisty) than Obama. "People who know me will tell you I don't back down from a fight," Clinton said. "I don't care what they say, I just care about what we do."

Clinton spent relatively little time addressing the war in Iraq and, when she did, her reception was discernibly less enthusiastic. " We should end this escalation now," said Clinton before repeating her standard stump line that if President Bush doesn't end the war in Iraq before he leaves office, she will.

Obama's speech was considerably more serious (some might even say dour), suggesting in both his tone and his words that serious times demand serious leaders. "The American people are in a serious mood," said Obama. "They want Washington to get to work."

Obama spent considerably more time and rhetorical firepower than Clinton on Iraq, emphasizing that he was against the conflict from its beginning; he called Iraq a "war that should never have been authorized." The result of that mistake is that the country now finds itself in the "crossfire of somebody else's civil war," according to Obama.

Throughout the speech, Obama sought to contrast the political deadlock in Washington with his belief that the country is ready to find a new governing paradigm. "There has always been a generation who stepped up and said 'yes we can,'" said Obama. "Today is our time."

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 14, 2007; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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