Philly Fight Night: Dems Spar Over Electability

This was a last chance to settle scores before the Pennsylvania primary.

ByABC News
April 16, 2008, 3:29 PM

April 17, 2008 — -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama opened Wednesday's presidential debate on a point of accord: neither would answer head-on whether they'd be willing to name the other as vice president.

Obama, D-Ill., said it was "premature" to discuss the veepstakes, but promised the party would "come together by August," when the party will hold its convention in Denver.

Watch the full debate by clicking here!

Clinton, D-N.Y., agreed. "Regardless of the differences there may be between us, and there are differences, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Sen. [John] McCain," she said.

In the first debate since Feb. 26, on stage at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center and moderated by ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, Clinton said, "I am going to do everything I possibly can to make sure one of us takes the oath of office next January."

Through surrogates and spin, the two Democratic challengers have highlighted each other's misstatements and missteps this week, each trying to seize the momentum in these final contests, and place doubts in the minds of voters and superdelegates about their opponent's potential strength against McCain, the Arizona senator who is the Republicans' presumptive nominee.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether Obama would be able to defeat McCain in the general election, Clinton after a long statement that avoided the question said, "Yes, yes, yes."

Obama also expressed confidence in his Democratic rival, saying he "absolutely" thought Clinton could win in November.

But the collegiality between the two candidates had its limits.

Obama defended recent remarks at a San Francisco frundraiser where he characterized small town voters as "bitter" saying they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them a way to explain their frustrations."

Obama said "that, when people feel like Washington's not listening to them ... then, politically, they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

"They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation," Obama said.

Clinton said she understood why people were "taken aback" and "offended" by Obama's remarks.