Obama, Edwards go on offensive against Clinton

PHILADELPHIA -- Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocratic governors fizzle in presidential race Obamas reportedly buying Martha's Vineyard mansion Trump has 62 percent disapproval rating in new AP poll MORE (Ill.) said at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate that his pledge to be more aggressive in targeting frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) had been “over-hyped.”

But Obama and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) made sure the much anticipated brawl lived up to its billing.

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Obama and Edwards engaged in a tag-team match throughout the debate, taking turns criticizing Clinton at every opportunity, with Edwards repeatedly calling Clinton the candidate of the “status quo” and Obama saying Clinton represents the kind of politics of which Americans have tired.

“One of the reasons I think Republicans are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having,” Obama said.

“They may actually want to run against you,” Edwards added. “That’s the reason they keep bringing you up.”

Edwards at times took a much harsher and direct approach as he criticized Clinton, but Obama was clearly more aggressive in confronting the frontrunner than he has been in the past.

After Clinton, under intense and direct questioning from co-moderator Tim Russert, said she is in favor of documents from her husband’s administration being open to the public and “turning the page” on the Bush administration, Obama took her to task for not being sincere.

“I’m glad that Hillary took the phrase ‘turn the page.’ It’s a good phrase,” Obama said. “But that’s an example of not turning the page.”

The first part of the debate was focused almost exclusively on Clinton’s vote in favor of the recent Iran resolution designating the Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist organization.

After Clinton said she would be in favor of passing legislation that prevents Bush from going to war with Iran without congressional approval, Edwards said the New York senator had already helped give that approval with her vote.

“So the way to do that is to vote ‘yes’ on a resolution that looks like it was literally written by the neocons?” Edwards said. “The way you stand up to this administration is you say ‘no.’”

Obama cast doubt on Clinton’s credibility on the issue by calling her “one of the co-authors of this engagement in Iraq.”

Clinton, for the most part, played defense, returning fire indirectly at Obama, who missed the vote, and saying that she is not in favor of “doing nothing.”

“Some may want a false choice between rushing to war as Republicans want… and doing nothing,” Clinton said. “I prefer vigorous diplomacy.”

The lower-tier candidates also took shots at Clinton, with Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) calling into question her electability in the general election.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) followed Edwards’ criticism of Clinton’s support from “special interests” by pointing out that the former senator has worked for a hedge fund and suggesting that neither has the ethical high ground.

Clinton and Obama also jousted over social security, with Clinton saying the so-called “looming crisis” is a Republican talking point. Obama took exception to that argument and maintained there is an emerging problem with the program.

After the first half of the two hour debate at Drexel University, Clinton found some allies on the edges of the stage as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called Edwards and Obama’s criticisms “holier than thou” and “coming close to personal attacks.” Richardson urged the candidates to save their ammunition for Republicans.

Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) scored some of the night’s biggest laughs from the audience when, after he said he is not running against Clinton, he lashed out at GOP frontrunner and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose sentences, Biden said, consist of “a noun, a verb and 9-11.”

“He is genuinely not qualified to be president,” Biden said.