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He said he would work to promote common ground.

With Mr. Warren asking the same questions of both men, there were a number of illuminating contrasts.

He asked whether evil exists and how to address it — by ignoring it, negotiating with it, containing it or defeating it — and both men said they believe evil exists. But Mr. Obama said that only God can defeat evil, while Mr. McCain was flat with his answer: “Defeat it.”

Asked their most gut-wrenching decisions, Mr. Obama said his was to oppose the Iraq war. Mr. McCain said his was to forgo early release - for himself alone - from a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, which he was offered by his communist captors but refused because it was against the prisoners’ code of conduct.

Mr. Obama laid out his philosophy for military intervention, saying the U.S. has a role for aggressive action to stop killing worldwide.

“If we have it within our power to prevent mass killings or genocide, and we can work in concert with the international community to prevent it, then we should act,” he said.

Mr. McCain also said the U.S. needs to stop genocide where it can, and said the U.S. can lend logistical support in places like the Darfur region of Sudan, but said U.S. troops should only be committed where national security interests are at stake.

Where Mr. Obama was smooth with his answers, Mr. McCain was specific.

For example, when asked the three people he would listen to as president, Mr. Obama said his mother, his grandmother, and then tossed out several fellow senators. Mr. McCain listed three specific persons: Gen. David H. Petraeus, architect of the surge strategy for Iraq; Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat and a civil rights leader; and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay.

Mr. McCain was also able to point to specifics where he’s fought his own party’s interests - “climate change, out-of-control spending, torture, the list goes on” - while Mr. Obama pointed to only one, ethics reforms, which was actually popular with many other Democrats.

Mr. Obama earlier this year caused a stir when he said he would continue, though modify, Mr. Bush’s faith-based initiative. Mr. McCain’s campaign sent out a memo detailing his own support for faith-based initiatives to encourage adoption in the U.S. and efforts to fight malaria in Africa.

The fact that both men were together one after the other was enough to draw full live coverage of the event by the cable news networks.