"I hope people will vote based on who they think the best person for the job at the time will be. Just as many people would be upset if black people said, 'I'm voting for Barack because he's a black guy.' We have to think more broadly about what this country needs, and it doesn't necessarily have a gender or race."
Last week, Edwards told online magazine Salon that as president her husband would be a better champion for women.
"Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues," she said. "I'm sympathetic — she wants to be commander in chief — but she's just not as vocal a women's advocate as I want to see. John is."
During the debate Monday night, John Edwards reiterated his wife's point, trying to position himself as the best candidate for women.
"Sen. Clinton has a long history of speaking out on behalf of women. She deserves to be commended for that. But I believe that on the issues that directly affect women's lives, I have the strongest, boldest ideas and can bring about the change that needs to be brought," said Edwards.
During Monday's debate, Clinton quickly turned a question about gender into a question about experience.
"I'm running because I think I'm the most qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running in January 2009," said Clinton, a common campaign message intended to distinguish her experience from Obama's.
"When I'm inaugurated, I think it's going to send a great message to a lot of little girls and boys around the world," Clinton said during the debate.
While Clinton's debate responses were met by muted cheers at the house party, general sentiment indicated the presidential field still has miles to go in winning over its electorate.
"The rubber hasn't hit the road yet," said Janet Lane. "Once the field clears a bit then we'll see what they're gonna do."