- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama sparred in a debate here last night over the two themes that have defined the Democratic presidential battle — experience and change.

Mrs. Clinton aimed to pull off a win here that would halt the momentum Mr. Obama gained after winning the Iowa caucuses Thursday, so she slammed him on his health care plan, past votes where he shifted position and suggested he was all talk and no results.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said Mrs. Clinton of New York wasn’t being truthful and defended himself.

“What I think is important that we don’t do is to try to distort each other’s records as election day approaches here in New Hampshire,” he said. “Because what I think the people of America are looking for are folks who are going to be straight about the issues and are going to be interested in solving problems and bringing people together.”

Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama had flip-flopped on what type of universal health care plan he wanted, and she reminded voters he said he would oppose the USA Patriot Act but voted for it and that an energy bill he supported in 2005 gave tax breaks to oil companies.

She also targeted his early votes to fund the Iraq war when he now votes against the funding, even though she has taken the same position.

The Clinton campaign sent a video link to what it viewed was her best line of the night:

“Words are not action, and as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. What we’ve got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality,” she said.

She also could have directed that remark at former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, because he spent most of the evening reprising his emotional promise to fight for the middle class.

Mr. Edwards trails Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, who are tied in advance of the first-in-the-nation primary here, set for Tuesday, but instead of challenging Mr. Obama, he aggressively went after Mrs. Clinton all evening.

“Both of us are powerful voices for change, and if I might add, we finished first and second in the Iowa caucus, I think, in part as a result of that,” he said. “Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. … Every time he speaks out for change, every time I fight for change, the forces of status quo are going to attack.”

He added: “I didn’t hear these kind of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead. Now that she’s not, we hear them.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who placed fourth in Iowa, chimed in with an argument for his own long resume.

“I’ve been in hostage negotiations that are a lot more civil than this,” he said. “Let’s stay positive. … What we need is change. There’s no question. But, you know, whatever happened to experience? Is experience kind of a leper?”

The theme of “change,” which many Iowa voters cited as the most prominent reason for selecting Mr. Obama, was repeated throughout the evening.

“Obviously, making change is not about what you believe. It’s not about a speech you make. It is about working hard,” Mrs. Clinton said, citing her experience. “I’m not just running on a promise of change. I’m running on 35 years of change.”

Mr. Obama argued that a feeling of change is important, saying there have been moments in history “where a president inspired an American people to do better.”

A new CNN poll showed him tied with Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire, but several other polls put Mr. Obama with a healthy lead over the others.

Earlier in the evening, supporters of Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich incited chaos in the streets to protest ABC, which did not allow the Ohio Democrat to debate because he did not meet their participation standards. The network said only the top four candidates from the Iowa caucuses or those who ranked at 5 percent or more in polls could take the stage.

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