Scroll down for updates/liveblogging…It’s Gaffe-a-paloooza: All lies, botches, and loons on the table–from Jeremiah Wright to the Tuzla lies to William Ayers to Bill Clinton’s terrorist pardons to Hillary’s baking cookies snipe…Vid: The Ayers attack…Vid:The Jeremiah Wright attack
It starts at 8pm tonight. Hillary Clinton’s message: I am not a pathological liar! Barack Obama’s message: I am not a pathological snob!
Your referees: Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulous.
I know: Graooooaan.
The ABC News pre-fight hype:
With the last primaries six weeks behind them and the Pennsylvania contest only six days ahead, Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia gives Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., a last chance to settle old and new scores heading into a week that could make or break their presidential aspirations.
Watch the Democratic Presidential Debate tonight from 8-10 p.m. ET on the ABC television network.
For the first time since February 26, Clinton and Obama will take the stage at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, in the debate co-hosted by ABCNews, WPVI and the Center, and moderated by ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.
Each candidate will try to seize the upper hand and move past the campaign controversies that have directed a negative course in the race to the Democratic nomination in recent days.
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 Republican presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Appearing Wednesday on ABC NewsNow Politics Live, Republican strategist Matthew Dowd warned that the candidates’ tone on the debate stage matters more than any specific remark or exchange.
And though it’s difficult to predict what tone the candidates will strike this evening, for both candidates, the debate stakes are high: Clinton will look to build on her five point lead in the Keystone State while Obama will try to match his debate performance with the poll numbers that show him surging past Clinton in the areas of trustworthiness and electability.
Stay tuned for the liveblog here.
8:10pm Eastern. Gibson’s first question. You have each disproportionately appealed to different factions in the party. Cites Mario Cuomo’s call for the loser to be the VP. Why not join each other on a ticket? (Laughter.)
Obama: This has been an extraordinary journey. It’s premature to talk about VP ticket. In Denver, the Democrat party will come together. We have no choice.
Gibson cites Article II, Section I of the Constitution. “If it was good enough for Colonial times, why not now?” ABC has discovered the Constitution!
Hillary: I will go anywhere in the country to make the case [for whomever wins.] I’ve seen the damage of the Bush years. I’ve seen the pain.
Has she FELT their pain? Say it! Say it!
8:14pm Eastern. Gibson brings up BitterClingGate. “Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing?”
Obama: No doubt that I can see how people have been offended. Not the first or last time I say something that’s been mangled up. Let me be clear: People are going through very difficult times, even before the housing crisis.
People run to religion when government doesn’t function.
8:17pm Eastern. Hillary goes in for the anti-Cling kill: I am the granddaughter of a man who was a factory worker in Scranton. Went to church. They don’t “cling to religion when Washington isn’t listening to them….I can see how people would be offended at taken aback.”
8:19pm Eastern. Stephanopoulous brings up Hillary’s spat with Bill Richardson: Do you think Obama can beat John McCain? Hillary dodges.
Stephy presses here. Can Obama win?
Hillary: “Yes, yes, yes. But I think I can do better.”
Stephy: Can Hillary win?
Obama: Absolutely and I’ve said it before. Segues back to BitterClingGate. It would be hard for me to be condescending to people of faith since I am a person of faith. I’ve reached out more than any other campaign. The problem with politics is typical…take something and twist it and beat it to death…Obama refers to Hillary baking cookies/Tammy Wynette soundbite…and people attacked her as “elitist” and I remember watching it and thinking, “that’s not who she is.”
Hillary ain’t having it. She goes after him again on the remarks. Blathers about her “passion for empowering people” and her respect for voters.
8:25pm Eastern. Gibson moves to race and Jeremiah Wright. You say you never heard him say the things he said from the pulpit, but you rescinded his invite for his invocation a year ago. Why did it take you more than a year to disassociate yourself?
Obama: Understand. I’m talking about the comments that ended up on YouTube. These comments were objectionable, they’re not comments I believe in…the church and the body of Wright’s work and ministries were not represented by the comments that ended up on TV. And so, what I think I tried to do in the speech here was speak to a broader context…there is anger in the African-American community…true in other communities as well…my candidacy represents the opportunity to move beyond it…we have to connect people…that’s what I’ve done with our campaign…
8:29pm Eastern. Hillary gleefully gets to claim again that she would have walked out of Wright’s church. Obama can barely contain himself from rolling his eyes. Hillary: “You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your pastor.” Hey, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Stephy: Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do? And what will you do when those sermons are played again and again and again?
Obama: Doesn’t answer the first question. Re. second question: “If it isn’t this, it’ll be something else.”
Obama: I’ve disowned him. Stephy: You’ve disowned him? Obama: Awkward pause. “Disowned the comments he’s made.”
Stephy: But do you think he’s as patriotic as you?
Obama: Well, this is someone who was a former Marine.
Hillary: On the attack again. Mentions Farrakhan, the church bulletin to the leader of Hamas, these are problems. This is a legitimate area for people to be exploring.
8:34pm Eastern. Now it’s time for Hillary to be in the hot seat.
Stephy plays a citizen question about the Tuzla fable.
Hillary: I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb. I wrote about Bosnia in my book in 2004. I just said some things that I knew not to be true. I’m embarrassed. I hope it’s something that you can look over. Sticks by her story that it was a danger zone…I’ll try and get more sleep…I’ve said things that were not accurate…I’m very sorry that I said it…That happens…
8:38pm Eastern. Obama: “Both of us are working as hard as we can to make sure that we are delivering message that we are [best qualified] to be president…deserves the right to make some errors every once in a while…make sure we don’t lose sight that this is a historic moment….blahblah…for us to be obsessed with these errors is a mistake…
Obama doesn’t want to draw blood.
8:40pm Eastern. Citizen Nash McCabe asks why Obama doesn’t support the American flag. Major vulnerability. How do you convince Dems that it won’t be a vulnerability.
Obama: I revere the American flag. I wouldn’t be running for president if I didn’t revere this country. No other country in which my story is even possibility. Says he’s never said he would never not wear a flagpin. This is a distraction. Obsession with these things distracts from the issues. (Applause)
Stephy brings up Obama’s connection to terrorist William Ayers.
Obama’s irritated. This is someone in my neighborhood. I was eight years old when he committed his acts.
I’m also friendly with Tom Coburn. Do I need to apologize for Coburn’s statements (re abortionists and death penalty)?
The American people are smarter than that.
Hillary goes on the attack: Obama served on a board with Ayers. And that relationship continued after 9/11. It is an issue people will be asking about. She’s really going in for the kill on Obama’s electability in the general. Mwwwrrowr.
Obama notes that Bill Clinton pardoned members of the Weather Underground. Much worse than sitting on some board.
Obama finally wakes up and defends himself on electability.
8:56pm Eastern. Back from a commercial break. Hillary trying to out-Left Barack on Iraq. Talking like Cindy Sheehan on withdrawing troops within 60 days of taking the White House. She states adamantly that “no one can predict what will happen,” yet she is adamant that we must pull out the troops.
9:04pm Eastern. Hillary’s talking “diplomatic engagement” with Iran. Refers to Mahmoud’s Trutherism.
9:07pm Eastern. Stephy asks Hillary if she’ll pledge no new taxes for those making under $200k. I’m committed to not raising taxes. She promises billions in tax cuts for middle class. Plugs her website. She’ll pay for everything!
9:11pm Eastern. Gibson asks about the capital gains tax. He cites data that revenues increased when rates were slashed and revenues decreased when rates were raised. Mirabile dictu!
9:16pm Eastern. Know-it-all Hillary. If she had been president, we wouldn’t have had the subprime crisis!
10:10pm Eastern. Sorry, got distracted. Did I fall asleep? Might as well have. Obama was lamb to the slaughter.
Will it matter? Well, he is The Obamessiah.