Clinton: "Yes, yes, yes" Obama can win in November

Obama, Clinton won't vow to put loser on ticket as VP
April 17, 2008 10:02:35 AM PDT
With the Pennsylvania primary six days away, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off Wednesday night in their 21st debate.Both had controversies to face, from Obama's pastor to Clinton's claim of dodging sniper fire in Bosnia.

This debate was important because several polls show Obama cutting into Clinton's lead in the state.

ABC News sponsored and televised the debate, with Charles Gibson and Stephanopoulos moderating.

The Mea Culpas "I can see how people were offended. It's not the first time I've made a statement that was mangled up. It's not gonna be the last," said Obama.

Obama answered the first of the debate with an apology. But he claims he's not an out of touch elitist because he said working class Americans cling to God, guns and intolerance when tough economic times make them bitter.

"When people feel like Washington is 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," he 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," Clinton responded.

Clinton also took heat for a misstatement of her own, claiming erroneously that she faced sniper fire on a visit to Bosnia as First Lady.

"I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it. I said it was a mistake," she said.

"Senator Clinton deserves the right to make some errors once in a while," Obama said.

Clinton was not, however, as charitable when it comes to Obama's decision not to sever his relationship with former pastor Jeremiah Wright after a series of incendiary, anti-American remarks.

"For Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to blame the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me," Clinton said.

"Absolutely many of these remarks were objectionable. I've already said that I didn't hear them because I wasn't in church that day. What my entire body of work over the last 20 years has been devoted to is getting blacks, whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, young and old to work together," said Obama.

Both candidates were dancing around a big issue in Chicago but a tough one for Democrats - control of handguns.

"What I think we can provide is common sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets," said Obama.

"We will strike the right balance to protect the constitutional right but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will be protected from guns in the wrong hands," said Clinton.

There did not seem to be anything that would appreciably change the dynamic of this campaign, Clinton clinging to a lead of several points in Pennsylvania, Obama with a similar lead of four or five points in Indiana and a bigger lead in North Carolina, but Clinton did say that she is in this until the very end, until the last vote is counted even by the super delegates.

There may not be any more debates. They're talking about one or two more but nothing has been confirmed.

The Running Mate Question

"Yes, yes, yes," she Clinton when pressed about Obama's electability.

Asked a similar question about Clinton, Obama said "Absolutely and I've said so before" -- a not-so-subtle response to suggestions from his rival that he could not defeat Republican Sen. John McCain.

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.

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. And despite a recent gaffe, he picked up endorsements during the day from three superdelegates from a pair of states with primaries on May 6 -- Reps. Andre Carson of Indiana and Mel Watt and David Price of North Carolina.

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.

The former first lady has never denied published reports that she once told New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that Obama couldn't win when he called to tell her he would be endorsing the Illinois senator.

And at a news conference earlier this month in California, Clinton sidestepped when asked directly whether Obama would win if he were the Democratic nominee. "I am sure we will have a united Democratic Party. I will do everything possible to make sure we can win and I am confident we will have a Democrat in the White House next year," she said at the time.

Asked a similar question at the debate, she provided a similar answer at first. "I think we have to beat John McCain and I have every reason to believe we're going to have a Democratic president and it's going to be Barack or me."

Pressed by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News to answer the question directly, she said, "Yes, yes, yes ... Now I think I can do a better job."

Obama was asked at one point whether he believed Clinton has been fully truthful as a candidate. "I think that Senator Clinton has a strong record to run on. She wouldn't be here if she didn't."

Both Obama and Clinton sidestepped when asked if they would place their rival on the ticket as vice presidential running mate in the fall.

"I think very highly of Senator Clinton's record, but I think it is premature at this point to talk about who the vice presidential candidates will be because we're still trying to determine who the nominee will be," Obama said.

Clinton was similarly noncommittal. "I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next January. I think that has to be the overriding goal," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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