TRANSCRIPT: The Democratic Debate

And there's nobody who's ever won the presidency who started out in that kind of position.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, Senator Obama, I know you're loathe to agree with Karl Rove on just about anything.


OBAMA: I am.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the Associated Press this week wrote an article. They talked to 40 Democratic activists and officeholders across the country. It led to the series of headlines across the country: "Democrats worry Clinton may weigh down lesser candidates"; "Democrats worry Clinton may hurt the rest of the ticket."

Are they right to be worried?

OBAMA: You know, I think Senator Clinton and all the candidates up here are capable. And whoever wins the general election I believe -- whoever wins the primary I believe is going to win the general election.

But I think there's something bigger at stake here. We all agree that the last six years have been disastrous for America, both at home and abroad. But the fact is that the big challenges we face, whether it's health care or a bold energy strategy or schools that aren't producing young people that can compete on the global stage, those are problems that pre-date the Bush administration.

OBAMA: They're not just Republican problems. They're Democratic problems and American problems. And, you know, I think a winning strategy is not crafted by a political calculus that divides the country into red states and blue states.

So what I've been trying to express in my campaign is that if you believe that part of the problem is the failed politics of Washington and the conventional thinking in Washington, if you're tired of the backbiting and the score keeping and the special-interest-driven politics of Washington, if you want somebody who can bring the country together around a common purpose and rally us around a common destiny, then I'm your guy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But when you say that, are you saying that Senator Clinton is part of the failed politics of Washington, or not?

OBAMA: What I'm suggesting is that we're going to need somebody who can break out of the political patterns that we've been in over the last 20 years. And part of that is the notion that half the country's on one side; the other half's on the other.

OBAMA: You maybe have a few people in Iowa or a few people in Ohio and Florida who we're all battling over, and afterwards, we can't govern.

And what I'm interested in is not only winning the election, but also providing relief to people who don't have health care, making sure that we're tackling climate change in a serious way. And I think that's going to require building a new majority, getting new people involved in the process, and I wouldn't be running if I didn't believe that I was the person best equipped to do that.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer is yes?

OBAMA: The answer is: I would not be running if I did not believe that I was the best person to do this.

EDWARDS: Well, let me just say -- I have a slightly different view. Here's what I believe. I think we were out of power in the Congress for 13 years. In November of 2006, the Democrats took over the Congress again. I think there was a reason for that. Because the Democrats in November of 2006 stood for change.

America wants change in the most serious way. And if we become the party of status quo in 2008, that's a loser.

EDWARDS: If we...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that is the fundamental question, though.

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