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A Snowy Night, A Heated Debate

Democratic hopefuls Clinton and Obama meet for what could be their final debate

By Ethan White | null null , null
New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama debate at Cleveland University's Wolfstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, on Feb. 26, 2008. (Photo: AP Images)
New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama debate at Cleveland University's Wolfstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, on Feb. 26, 2008. (Photo: AP Images)

It was a snowy night at the 20th—and possibly final—Democratic debate at Cleveland State University's Wolfstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It snowed a lot, but the 8 to 10 inches of snow that fell couldn't stop the candidates from telling anyone who would listen why they are the best person to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the last two major Democratic candidates, the final ones standing from the field of eight that started the race at the Orangeburg, South Carolina, debate in April 2007.

With less than one week before the Ohio primary, this was an important debate, especially for Clinton. Obama has captured the last 11 caucuses and/or primary contests, and Clinton needs a strong showing in the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas to remain competitive in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Since the two last debated in Texas on February 15, Clinton has been attacking Obama on various issues, including his campaign's alleged misrepresentation of her health care plan. Tonight they spent the first 16 minutes discussing the differences between their two plans.

Clinton claimed Obama's plan will leave 15 million people without health insurance—a claim Obama flatly denied. Obama countered Clinton's health care attack by saying that her mandate (requirement) that everyone buy health insurance would be unaffordable for many Americans.

The candidates went on to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),which involves the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It removed most barriers to trade and investment among the three countries. NAFTA is important to Ohioans and many other Americans, as many blame the agreement for loss of jobs and a lowering of manufacturing standards.

When asked what they would do with NAFTA as President, both said they would renegotiate the agreement to benefit the U.S., and if renegotiations did not go well, they would opt out of NAFTA.

The two spoke briefly on other major issues, including the war in Iraq, foreign policy, and the environment as it related to "green collar jobs," or occupations that help preserve the environment, like building windmills and manufacturing solar panels.

After the Debate

Following the debate in the spin room, I asked Ohio State Representative Tracy Heard, an Obama supporter, what she thought Obama's main goal in the debate was, and whether or not he achieved it.

"I think his main goal was achieved: to let the citizens of Ohio know that he is paying attention [to them] and that he was paying attention long before he got here," Heard said. "I think he had an 'A game' tonight. His best debate so far."

I asked Clinton spokesperson Doug Hattaway if he thought spending so much time on health care helped or hurt the Senator. "I think what's more important is what it did for the voters," he answered. "They heard that she's a fighter who really knows that people need help, and if she's the one who they elect President, she'll get it done for them."

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, who supports Obama, saw it differently: "I think Hillary's main goal tonight was a knockout—to hit a home run. And she didn't do it. Unfortunately, for Senator Clinton I think this was her last best hope to make her case."

On March 4, primary voters in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island will decide if she did.


Read all the Scholastic Kid Reporters reports on election action in the "Final Stretch States" here.


Scholastic Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail. Keep up with the latest election news in this special report.

About the Author

Ethan White is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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