Obama Attempts to Brush Off Tough Debate

By Nitya

Apr 17, 2008 3:02pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., both literally and figuratively, tried to brush off a rough performance after Wednesday night’s debate on ABC.

During a town hall in Raleigh, Obama said Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., "looked in her element" last night in Philadelphia.

"She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there, that’s her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit," Obama said before reiterating a point he made during the debate.

"That’s how our politics has been taught to be played. That’s the lesson that she learned when the republicans were doing that same thing to her back in the 1990s, so I understand it, and when you’re running for the presidency then you’ve got to expect it."

Watch the video from the town hall meeting HERE.

Obama then paused, brushed both his shoulders, and then bent down and brushed off his knee amid thunderous applause from the audience.

"That’s what you got to do," Obama laughed, "That is also precisely why I’m running for president to change that kind of politics."

The Illinois senator called the first half of the debate was "tit for tat silliness", and quickly added, "It took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people . . . 45 minutes before we heard about healthcare, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices."

Obama said that the debate was a preview of how the Republicans will attack him if he were the nominee.

"That was the roll out of the Republicans campaign against me in November. It happened just a little early but that is what they will do. They will try to focus on all these issues that don’t have anything to do with how you are paying you bills at the end of the month," Obama said.

Obama said he knows he will have to respond sharply and crisply to an attack like that, explaining he tried to "show some restraint" because he was debating a Democrat.

"Ill be honest with you –- it’s a little harder to do with a fellow Democrat because you know I’m trying to you know be –- show some restraint. You know, I won’t have this much restraint with the Republicans," he said before continuing, "If the Republicans come at me I will come right back at them."

Obama has not yet committed to a proposed April 27 debate in Raleigh –- while his opponent, Senator Clinton has.

"We’ve now had 21 (debates), and look, I mean the previous three, you know, we did very well, so it’s not as if we don’t know how to do these things."

Obama did say they are trying to work out time in the schedule for either a North Carolina or Indiana debate — as both states hold primaries on May 6.

Addressing an overflow crowd before the event, Obama spoke about the importance of North Carolina, applying more pressure to Clinton in a state he’s expected to fare well in.

"North Carolina is going to be critically important –- if we can win in North Carolina, I think we can wrap up this nomination," he said.

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