Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama squared off in Austin, TX for their 19th debate of the primary season. Keep checking back for updates below, and check here for full HuffPost coverage of the Texas primary.
Clinton Booed After Hitting Obama On "Plagiarism": After an hour of somber, substantive debating between Obama and Clinton, the issue of plagiarism "brought the two candidates out of their slumber."
Asked about his lifting of lines from Gov. Deval Patrick (Mass.), Obama sought to dismiss the charges of plagiarism as the sort of politics the American public is sick of. "The notion I had plagiarized from someone who is one of my national co-chairs who gave me the line and suggested I use it I think is silly," Obama said. "This is where we get into silly season in politics and people start getting discouraged about it."
Clinton, however, clearly believes this is a political weak spot for Obama and went after it -- hard. "If your candidacy is going to be about words, they should be your own words," said Clinton. "Lifting whole passages is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."
That line, obviously prepared in advance of tonight's debate, fell flat. The crowd went silent and then a smattering of boos rang out. Obama shook his head and muttered to himself.
Watch the video (Clinton's "change you can Xerox" line is at 3:00):
"Whatever Happens, We're Going To Be Fine": Spokesman Howard Wolfson highlights Clinton's final statement of the night: "What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She's tested and ready. It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice."
Watch the video:
"You know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people. And that's what this election should be about."
Marc Ambinder comments:
This was the night where we all learned that Hillary Clinton understands the moment in history we are in, and that she is smart enough and gracious enough to realize that her party is more important than personal vanity, that there are things she just cannot say about Obama because it would hurt him in the fall, and that more likely than not, she will not win the nomination.
Make no mistake: she still thinks she can win.
But her final answer sent a message to her party: this won't be decided by superdelegates. If Obama beats me in Texas and Ohio, the last thing I'm going to do is stand in the way of his nomination.
It was a moment of pure vulnerability, arguably her finest of the campaign.
Obama Campaign: Clinton's "Best Line" Someone Else's? The Obama campaign highlights Clinton's final line and notes John Edwards' previous statements:
John Edwards: "What's not at stake are any of us. All of us are going to be just fine no matter what happens in this election. But what's at stake is whether America is going to be fine." [Democratic Debate, 12/13/07]
John Edwards: "I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker's gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine." [Edwards Speech, 1/30/08]
Compare the two:
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign highlights these similarities:
Tonight, Sen. Obama said: "In Youngstown, Ohio, I talked to workers who have seen their plants shipped overseas due to consequences of poor deals it's like NAFTA that have literally seen equipment unbolted from the floors of factories and shipped to China." [CNN Univision Debate, 2/21/08]
John Kerry in 2004: "What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job?" [Kerry Remarks, Democratic Convention, 7/29/04]
Obama: Clinton Thinks My Supporters Are "Delusional":
Ben Smith: "Obama responds to Clinton's 'Let's get real' ... 'The implication has been that the people who have been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional,' he says, as Clinton laughs, and he cites the voters who support him and the editorial boards -- including, he says, all the major ones in Texas -- that have endorsed him."
Clinton Won't Say Whether Obama Is Ready To Be Commander In Chief: USA Today's On Politics notes:
Are you saying Sen. Obama is not ready to be commander in chief?
Clinton says she is ready and prepared and she'll leave it to voters to decide. Back to health care -- if we don't require everyone to have insurance, she says, insurers will still game the system and people with insurance will end up subsidizing those without insurance. She says it would be as if Social Security were voluntary, as John Edwards has said. ...
Again, Clinton is asked, is Obama not ready to be commander in chief?
She talks about her experience, including serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Events of the week in Cuba, Pakistan and elsewhere "pose real questions about presidential leadership," she says. She says she's ready, but doesn't say he's not.
Obama says he wouldn't be running if he didn't think he was prepared to be commander in chief. He also says he has "shown the judgment to lead" on foreign policy issues including Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Clinton had bad judgment on Iraq.
The Pundits Weigh In:
ABC's Rick Klein: "If all you're doing as a voter is making a judgment based on this debate, it's easy to come away supporting Clinton. But that's not how the election works -- the fact is Sen. Clinton was looking for ways to recast the debate tonight, and we didn't get that. A few new lines on a few old arguments do not result in any changed dynamics, not by my judgment. If you're an Obama fan, you're generally pleased with the night."
Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: "The Debate Belongs To Obama, But The Best (And) Last Moment Belongs To Hillary..."
NBC's Chuck Todd: "As for the big picture, the question for everyone watching this debate is: Did Clinton do anything tonight to change the trajectory of this race? And the answer is no. Did she potentially win this debate on points; I think so; it was close but she had a couple of VERY good moments on health care and the economy that probably scored well in the various focus groups of undecided voters watching this debate. Obama was uneven, at times great (like in his answers on Iraq and his speeches) but sometimes he seemed to go through the motions. It may be because he was a bit stuffed up; he was good tonight, not great. But he made no major gaffes (for the primary) and more importantly the one great rehearsed attack line Clinton had for Obama (about change you can xerox) seemed to fall flat."
Washington Post's Chris Cillizza: "Perhaps, but in tonight's debate politeness won out. Both candidates circled one another -- occasionally jabbing but generally comfortable to avoid throwing any haymakers. Obama seemed to hold the advantage in talking about his opposition to the war in Iraq, while Clinton seemed to hold the upper hand in debating their respective health care programs. If you went into the debate as a supporter of Obama, you likely left it the same way. Ditto for Clinton."
GOP Focuses Only On Obama: MSNBC's First Read: "So far, the RNC has sent out six anti-Obama releases; They've sent nothing out against Clinton; The Clinton and Obama campaigns have exchanged approx. 3 attack releases each, making the RNC press shop the busiest of the three. BTW, not a single McCain release but then again, they have their hands full today."
The Cuba Divide: Clinton and Obama split on dealing with Raul Castro.
Clinton says she would not meet with Castro's successor until Cuba makes progress such as releasing political prisoners and eases restrictions on the press. "I would not meet with them until there was evidence that change was happening," she said.
Obama says he would meet without preconditions but there would have to be preparations, such as an agenda that included release of prisoners and opening up the press. He says the preparation might take time, but it's important that America talk to its enemies as well as its friends. "That's where diplomacy makes the biggest difference," he says. He also says he has called for loosened restrictions on remittances and travel. "Our goal has to be normalization but that's going to happen in steps."
Debate Basics: The Dallas Morning News has prepared a primer with all the debate info:
Where to watch: On CNN live at 7 p.m., then in Spanish on Univision at 10:30 p.m. Viewers can also catch it live-streamed at www.cnn.com.
Moderator: CNN anchor Campbell Brown. Also asking questions: CNN's John King and Univision's Jorge Ramos.
The set: The Recreational Sports Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The basketball court has been turned into a studio, with two mirrored desks on a stage in front of rows of burnt orange folding chairs surrounded by bleachers. The moderators will sit at one desk, the candidates at the other.
Also: A group of Texas Democrats will be "dial-testing" - rating their reactions to the candidates' answers; the results will be streamed live online and broadcast on CNN after the debate.
With less than two weeks before pivotal primaries in Texas and Ohio, Clinton campaign officials are counting on landing a memorable zinger or forcing an Obama gaffe that could change the dynamic of the presidential race....
..."Overall, it's one of her strongest forums because it rewards the command of detail that she exhibits," said Rutgers University communications professor David Greenberg. "The stump speech plays more to (Obama's) strength."
Twice during the campaign, purveyors of conventional wisdom have come close to counting Clinton out -- before the New Hampshire primary and in the week leading up to Super Tuesday. Both times, said Greenberg, she began her comeback at debates.
"The debate before Super Tuesday, she performed brilliantly, while he performed well, and it helped her," he said.
But Greenberg said it is unlikely that Obama will make the kind of big mistake that turns races around. "Obama has proven to be pretty gaffe-proof," he said. "He doesn't shine in debates, but he seems to perform passably."
The Attacks Start: Hillary Clinton hasn't stopped her recent attacks on Obama's preparedness to lead in anticipation of tonight's performance, according to the Washington Post:
"I want you to think, 'Who do you want to have in the White House answering the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning when some crisis breaks out around the world?"' Clinton asked a heavily Hispanic crowd at a rally in downtown Laredo.
"'Who is best prepared to be commander in chief on day one?"' she added, pushing her latest line of attack on Obama in their hard-fought duel to be the Democratic candidate in November's presidential election.
Debate By Invitation Only: Those Texas hoping to watch the debate live may be out of luck. Attendance tonight is by invitation only, and CNN and Univision control the bulk of those tickets:
The debate will be held at the university's Recreational Sports Center. The number of seats depends on how CNN configures the venue; as of Tuesday, Robin Gerrow, Assistant Vice President in the University's Office of Public Affairs, thought that it looked like there might be about 1500 seats available.
Once word came down about the small number of tickets available, The Austin American-Statesmen politics blog was immediately hit with commenters asking for information about how to get tickets. Several glumly compared the situation to the mad scramble for Hannah Montana tickets.