Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Democratic debate unlikely to change political landscape favoring Obama

Democratic debate unlikely to change political landscape favoring Obama

A sometimes testy debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama appeared unlikely to give the former first lady the lift she needed to overtake Obama ahead of must-win contests next week in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The two sparred Tuesday night over health care, the war in Iraq and trade, particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was negotiated in Clinton's husband's first term _ but is seen by labor and other critics as a chief culprit in the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio and other industrial Midwestern states.
Both candidates have called for renegotiating parts of the trade pact, but in different terms.
It was their final debate before next Tuesday's key contests in Ohio and Texas. There also will be races in Vermont and Rhode Island, and a total of 370 delegates will be at stake overall.
Even some of Clinton's supporters concede she must win in both Ohio and Texas to keep her bid alive to become the first female U.S. president.
After the debate, Obama paid a late-night visit to unionized workers at a food distribution plant in nearby Medford Heights, Ohio. He was accompanied by Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa.
Both Democrats planned campaign events in Ohio on Wednesday, with Clinton ending her day in West Virginia and Obama moving on to Texas.
On the Republican side, John McCain, the party's presumptive nominee, denounced statements by a conservative radio talk show host who referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama on Tuesday and suggested the Democrat was an unsavory politician. McCain called both Democrats "honorable Americans."
Clinton needs big wins after 11 successive Obama primary and caucus victories since Feb. 5. Obama has been steadily gathering delegates to the party's national nominating convention in Denver.
The Illinois senator currently has 1,372 delegates to Clinton's 1,274. A total of 2,025 are needed to secure the Democratic nomination at the party's convention in late August in Denver.
But it seemed unlikely the 90-minute debate at Cleveland State University would provide a lift to Clinton's campaign. Neither candidate seemed to knock the other off stride.
"I don't think the debate changes a lot. Both came across as strong in the ways they've always been seen as strong," said Wayne Fields, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies political rhetoric. Neither one managed to seriously erode the other's credibility.
Tuesday's debate followed a four-day span in which Clinton accused Obama of distorting her record on trade and health care in mass mailings, then criticized him as ill-prepared to take charge of U.S. foreign policy.
On the war, both candidates denounced President George W. Bush's record on Iraq, then restated long-held disagreements over which of them was more opposed.
The two Democratic rivals also debated the NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico that is wildly unpopular with working-class voters whose support is critical in any Democratic primary in Ohio.
Neither one said they were ready to withdraw from the agreement, although both said they would use the threat of withdrawal to pressure Mexico to make changes.
Clinton also stumbled at one point in the 90-minute debate as she tried to pronounce the name of Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's first deputy prime minister, who is expected to win an election to succeed President Vladimir Putin on Sunday. "Whatever," she said after several attempts to demonstrate she knew his name.
Obama seemed to have an awkward moment when grilled about an endorsement from Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrahkan and remarks by his Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, which have stirred controversy.
The Farrahkan remarks, and a photograph circulating on the Internet of Obama dressed in traditional local garments during a visit to Kenya in 2006, could further fuel a longtime buzz on the Internet suggesting that the Illinois senator, who is a Christian, is either secretly a Muslim or has Islamic sympathies.
Obama distanced himself from Farrakhan's comments, but he sidestepped a question on whether he would reject the endorsement, saying he had denounced Farrakhan in the past for anti-Semitic statements.
Clinton said rejecting support was different from denouncing it, noting she had "rejected" in her 2000 Senate race the support of a group with anti-Semitic views.
Obama drew laughter by saying, "I happily concede the point and I would reject and denounce."
McCain also did some denouncing when he criticized comments by a conservative radio talk show host who while warming up a campaign crowd referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama.
Hussein is Obama's middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd before the likely Republican nominee's appearance.
"I did not know about these remarks, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them," McCain said. "My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign."
The Republican race is considered settled in favor of McCain, the veteran Arizona senator and a former Vietnam prisoner of war.
He has a total of 1,013 of the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at the Republican convention in September in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, trails with 257 delegates.


Updated : 2021-07-31 11:00 GMT+08:00