Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton debate at the Recreational Sports Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas.
Deborah Cannon / AP Enlarge
AUSTIN, Texas Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama of political plagiarism Thursday night and said he represented change you can Xerox.
Obama dismissed the charge out of hand, adding in a campaign debate, What we shouldn t be doing is tearing each other down, we should be lifting the country up.
The exchange marked an unusually pointed moment in an otherwise civil encounter in the days before March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio contests that even some of Clinton s supporters say she must win to sustain her campaign for the White House.
In a university auditorium in the heart of Texas, the two agreed that high-tech surveillance measures are preferable to construction of a fence to curtail illegal immigration.
They disagreed on the proper response to a change in government in Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro s resignation.
Clinton said she would refuse to sit down with incoming President Raul Castro until he implements political and economic reforms. Obama said he would meet without preconditions, but added the U.S. agenda for such a session would include human rights in the Communist island nation.
They also sparred frequently about health care, a bedrock issue of the campaign.
Clinton said repeatedly that Obama s plan would leave 15 million Americans uncovered.
But he, in turn, accused the former first lady of mishandling the issue by working in secrecy when her husband was in the White House.
I m going to do things differently, he said. We can have great plans, but if we don t change how the politics is working in Washington, then neither of our plans are going to happen.
Clinton largely sidestepped a question about so-called superdelegates, members of Congress, governors and party leaders who were not picked in primaries and caucuses. She said the issue would sort itself out, and we ll have a united Democratic party for the fall campaign.
But Obama, who has won more primaries and caucuses said the contests must count for something ... that the will of the voters ... is what ultimately will determine who our next nominee is going to be.
Clinton went into the debate needing a change in the course of the campaign, and waited patiently for an opening to try to diminish her rival, seated inches away on the stage. I think you can tell from the first 45 minutes Senator Obama and I have a lot in common, she said.
Barely pausing for breath, she went on to say there were differences.
First, she said she had seen a supporter of Obama interviewed on television recently, and unable to name a single accomplishment the Illinois senator had on his record.
Words are important and words matter but actions speak louder than words, she said.
Obama agreed with that, then noted that Clinton lately had been urging voters to turn against him by saying, let s get real.
And the implication is that the people who ve been voting for me or are involved in my campaign are somehow delusional, Obama said.
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