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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.
The topic quickly turned to the latest political firestorm dominating the Democratic race: Obama's remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser in which he characterized small town voters as "bitter," saying they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Obama sought to clarify his comments by saying "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.
Obama's relationship with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright also came into question, specifically Obama's understanding of Wright's full range of controversial remarks, more than a year ago, when he disinvited his longtime pastor from a campaign event.
Wednesday, Obama once again denounced Wright's sermons which included, among other things, the charge that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."
Obama also defended the church and his longtime pastor's 30-year career, citing his work "in ministries, on HIV/AIDS, prison ministries, providing people with the kind of comfort that we expect in churches."
Clinton reiterated her criticism of the Wright relationship, saying that, based on his sermons, Wright would not have been her pastor and that she would have left his church if she had heard them.
Clinton had her turn in the hot seat during the debate as well, responding to her widely criticized embellishment of the details of a trip she took to Bosnia as first lady in 1996, where she described landing "in an evasive maneuver" "under sniper fire." Video footage later revealed Clinton participating in a greeting ceremony with school children on the tarmac.
Responding to a video question submitted to ABCNews by Pittsburgh resident Tom Rooney, who said Clinton lost his vote over the Bosnia flap, Clinton said "I'm embarrassed by it, I've apologized for it, and I've said it was a mistake."