Dems Battle for Edge in Penn. Debate

Ad Feedback - Last night, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced off in their only debate before Pennsylvania holds their primary next week.

In a 90-minute debate, both rivals pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000, and said they would respond forcefully if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and uses them against Israel.

"An attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation by the United States," said Clinton.

Obama said, "The U.S. would take appropriate action."

They differed over Social Security when Obama said he favored raising payroll taxes on higher-income individuals. Clinton said she was opposed, her rival quickly cut in and countered that she had said earlier in the campaign she was open to the idea.

Under current law, workers must pay the payroll tax on their first $102,000 in wages. Obama generally has expressed support for a plan to reimpose the tax beginning at a level of $200,000 or more.

The debate was the 21st of the campaign for the nomination, an epic struggle that could last weeks or even months longer.

Status of the Race

Pennsylvania, with 158 delegates at stake, is a must-win contest for Clinton, who leads in the polls and hopes for a strong victory to propel her through the other states that vote before the primary season ends on June 3.

Obama leads in the delegate chase, 1,643-1,504, with 2,025 needed for the nomination. After primaries and caucuses in 42 of the 50 states, Obama leads his rival in convention delegates, popular votes and states won.

She is struggling to stop his drive on the nomination by appealing to party leaders who will attend the convention as superdelegates that he will preside over an electoral defeat at a moment of great opportunity after eight years of Republican rule.

Mistakes on the Campaign Trail

Both candidates spent much of their time last night trying to explain their own recent mistakes on the campaign trail.

Obama was again dogged by the controversy over his recent comment that small-town people are "bitter" over government inaction and "cling" to guns and religion.

"When people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change and it doesn't, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion. They end up feeling 'this is a place where I can find some refuge, this is something I can count on," Obama said.

Clinton said, "I don't believe that my grandfather or my father or the many people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not listening to them. I think that is a fundamental sort of misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad."

Also at the debate, Clinton apologized for her claim about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia when she was First Lady.

"I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case of what I'd written about in my book. You know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it, I've said it was a mistake," she said.

Obama's decision to stay in the church of his fiery pastor Jeremiah Wright came up again.

"The church and the body of Reverend Wright's work over 30 years were not represented in those snippets that were shown on television," Obama said.

But Clinton responded, "You get to choose your pastor. You don't choose your family, but you get to choose your pastor."

What about Electability?

In the City of Brotherly Love, both candidates also said they felt the other one was electable.

When pressed about Obama's electability during a campaign debate six days before the Pennsylvania primary, Clinton said "yes, yes, yes," undercutting her efforts to deny him the Democratic presidential nomination by suggesting he would lead the party to defeat.

Asked a similar question about Clinton, Obama said "Absolutely and I've said so before."

And despite a long, sometimes nasty primary race, they said their party will be come together by August, when it holds its convention in Denver.

Source: The Associated Press

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