Clinton stands by debate tenor, husband’s role

Reinforcing lines of attack from Monday’s debate and deflecting several questions about her husband’s role in her campaign, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) made it clear early Tuesday morning that the Democratic presidential nominating contest has entered a new phase.

Clinton said Obama entered the debate, held in Myrtle Beach, S.C., “very frustrated” and “looking for a fight.” Clinton was happy to oblige Monday, and she did not back off her comments Tuesday.

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The stubborn morning-after press conference demonstrated Clinton is not afraid of a divisive primary, believing the party will unite regardless of what happens between her and Obama.

Asked whether recent comments by former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonImpeaching the president: At what cost, and by what method? The Evergreen State and the soul of the Democratic Party Biden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility MORE about Obama risk creating a chasm in the party, Clinton stood up for her husband.

“That has absolutely nothing to do with a unified Democratic Party around the nominee and full support for whoever our Democratic president will be,” Clinton said. “That is just the way it works. I’ve been through this countless times.”

Clinton went on to defend the chippy nature of the debate, which entered a new level of conflict after Obama said early on that he was helping people who lost their jobs while Clinton was “a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.”

She responded by referencing Obama’s ties to indicted businessman Tony Rezko.

Both references were unprecedented from the candidates, if not from their campaigns behind-the-scenes, and they were followed by heated back-and-forths.

“The events of the last 10 or so days, particularly the outcomes in New Hampshire and Nevada, have apparently convinced him to adopt a different strategy,” Clinton said. “He telegraphed it. … And I thought it was important to set the record straight.”