The Democratic Debate will be on CNN at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The debate may also be seen on the internet HERE.
Last debate before Super Tuesday primaries.
The debate — sponsored by CNN, the Los Angeles Times and Politico — starts at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on CNN and CNN.com. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is the moderator.
CNN “speculates” on what they will push to discuss:
The economy is likely to dominate Thursday’s debate, as both candidates look to appeal to supporters of Edwards and his brand of economic populism.
Wolf introduces Hillary and BO.
Here we go.
Doyle McManus and Jeanne Cummings of L.A. Times and Politico will also ask questions. Wolf says there are no rules.
Obama opening statement: I want to acknowledge John Edwards who left this week. I also want to note when we started off there there 8 candidates. It is a testimony to the Democratic Party and this country that we are the two remaining. Hillary Clinton and I were friends before this campaign and we will be friends after. A defining moment in our history. Health care costs backbreaking. How do we take the country across the divisions. What is at stake is whether we are looking forward or backward.
Hillary opening statement: On January 20, 2009 the next president will be sworn in. I hope it is one of us. After the celebration there will be a stack of problems from Bush. Iraq, Economy, Health insurance, energy prices, global warming we must lead in and all the problems we know and the ones we can’t yet predict. We need a president ready on day 1. John and Elizabeth Edwards have led with personally. This discussion should be about priorities for America. We need a problem solver. Americans are ready for change and know there is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it.
Doyle: Most voters don’t see many differences on policy, what are they?
Clinton: The differences between us pale as between us and the Republicans. But we have big differences on healthcare. My plan like Edwards’ plan is universal. We need a moratorium on foreclosures and freeze interest rates. On foreign affairs we have to be realistic. There are threats. We should also be hopeful. But the president should not put the prestige of the U.S. by meeting with dictators in the first year.
Obama: Hillary mentioned some policy differences. On healthcare we are 95% similar. We have a policy difference. I think people don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it. Senator Clinton has a different approach. She thinks we need to force people to buy it. She might have fines. On mortgage crisis I have not signed on to an interest rate moratorium.
We also have to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington. On Iraq I was opposed to Iraq from the start. The next president has to have judgment. I want to elevate diplomacy. I want to meet with Iran.
Wolf: Those are 3 important issues. We discuss them all.
Cummings: Most Democrats want full coverage. Obama your plan is voluntary. 15 million left out. Why is your plan superior.
Obama: Every expert says anyone who wants healthcare can get it under my plan. I dispute 15 million won’t get it. I mandate coverage for all children. Young people up to 25 years old can be covered by their parents. Massachusetts mandated coverage but some people still cannot afford it. What are you going to do about it?
Clinton: This is the passionate cause of my public service. I have designed a plan that lets those satisfied with their plan to keep it. Those that don’t have insurance we will allow you the same plan as congress. My plan covers everyone. It provides subsidies and caps premiums. It will be affordable. It has been designed to be affordable. There are people who do not have health care because they don’t want it. I have shared responsibility. Obama mandates insurance for children. He thinks politically we can’t get a mandate for adults. But if you don’t start by demanding universal health care, you’ll never get there. John Edwards and I have plans that get us to universal coverage.
Wolf: On mandates, we pay for the uninsured who go to emergency rooms?
Obama: Hillary’s plan does not provide sufficient subsidies. I want to lower premiums not just cap them. How do we get this plan done? Ted Kennedy agrees I can get the plan passed. I want to broadcast the negotiations on c-span. I passed a plan in Illinois.
Wolf: Broadcast on c-span, is that a swipe at Senator Clinton?
Obama: I want they to make the argument in public.
Wolf: Your plan was done in secret?
Clinton: I’m proud that my efforts resulted in the children’s health insurance program. But I want to underscore 3 different points. We need to regulate the insurance companies to make them cover everyone; make it clear they should be part of the solution but we pay for the research so Medicare must be able to negotiate prices; and finally we Democrats have to carry the banner of Universal Health care. $300 million dollars attacked my plan in the 90s. I have learned a lot about hot to get it done. We need a coalition to pass healthcare, business, labor, doctors/nurses. We can withstand the insurance company attacks.
Doyle: Both of your plans cost a lot. You’ll be called ‘tax and spend’.
Obama: Republicans can’t argue fiscal responsibility. McCain wants to extend the Bush tax cuts. We emphasize savings.
We cut taxes for people who don’t need them.
Wolf: Your plan costs $110 Billion.
Clinton: I pay for my health care tax credits ($55 billion) with repeal of Bush tax cuts. The other $55 billion is from savings. Bush has given billions to HMOs. I would rein those in. I have worked with Newt Gingrich on electronic health records which would save us $77 billion a year. This can be put into chonic care management.
Wolf: When the Bush tax cuts expire it will be a big tax increase?
Obama: The rich can pay more.
Clinton: We will go back to the pre-Bush tax rates. People did very well in those years.
Cummings: Immigration? Immigration hurts the African-American community?
Obama: I was a community organizer with all races. All are feeling economically insecure. This was true before immigration shot up. This is scapegoating. We have to get control of our borders and crack down on employers. We need a pathway to citizenship. Immigration should not be a tactic to divide.
Doyle: Obama will give drivers licenses?
Clinton: Let’s be honest that there have been job losses. I meet those that have lost jobs. We need to bring our country together for a comprehensive solution. This is in the interest of all. Tight borders, crackdown on employers, help with community costs, jobs to the south. The other side is living in another universe thinking they can get rid of immigrants. We need to get people out of the shadows. A path to citizenship. That way they will not be in a labor market that competes with people like Kim, only then should we consider drivers licenses.
Wolf: You said you are the only one with a humane policy?
Obama: I worked with Ted Kennedy and McCain to move this issue forward. We need to show leadership on the issue. The problems of workers are not caused by immigration.
Wolf: but Clinton is inhumane?
Obama: Wolf you keep on asking? There were those who were opposed, those who flipped. We need comprehensive reform.
Wolf: Clinton, were you missing in action?
Clinton: I co-sponsored immigration reform before Barack came to the Senate. When the House of Representatives passed tough legislation I said this would criminalize Jesus Christ himself. I got the United Farm Workers endorsement because I have been working on this issue. It is a broken system. Let’s fix it by bringing people together. People are nervous about immigration. People do ask the questions on immigration.
Wolf: Why not then drivers licenses?
Clinton: I do not think it is appropriate. It is also a diversion.
Obama: Senator Clinton gave several answers on this issue. This is a tough issue.
Clinton: I have to correct the record. We agree on comprehensive reform. But a week after I gave my answer you had a tough time explaining yourself. We need a united Democratic Party.
Doyle: Americans think Hillary is experienced?
Obama: Others think I have enough experience. I was a community organizer, lawyer, etc. I have the ability to get people together and talking straight to solve these problems. I respect Senator Clinton’s record. But the skills I have are the ones the president needs.
Wolf: What experience do you have?
Clinton: I have 35 years of experience. After school I did not work for a law firm but for the Children’s Defense Fund. I have worked on this all my life. I ran projects in prisons, rural health care and experience in the profit, not-for-profit and public sector. For 8 years I worked in the White House. I took on the drug companies. Foster care here in California. When health care failed I went to work on child health care. I worked across party lines. I traveled to 82 countries like Macedonia and spoke for women’s rights in Beiging.
Cummings: Is the country a large business and neither of you have business experience?
Clinton: The United States is much more than a business. We have a president who ran as a business manager and that has not turned out well.
Obama: Romney has not done so well in management.
Doyle: The Kennedys say the country needs a new generation of leadership.
Clinton: I respect Ted and I have Bobby, Kerry and Townsend Kennedy supporting me. We are going to get change. Despite our supporters this is about the two of us. Voters will determine who will be ready on day 1. Who can withstand the other side of the aisle. This is about the American people. Interest rates, education, health care, be proud of our country again. In the 22 states voting on Tuesday, what are the criteria you are looking for? Evaluate the 2 of us. No one else will be on the ballot. Who will be the best president?
Wolf: Many Americans remember the Clinton years fondly, should they?
Obama: We’re all Democrats. I don’t want to diminish those 8 years. Ultimately we have to be judged by ourselves. We are bringing in a whole generation of new voters. A new generation. We shouldn’t settle. Who can work the levels of power more effectively? This is good news for Democrats. This changes the electoral map.
Cummings: Obama mentioned the generational issue. Clinton, you claim you will bring change but there is always a Bush or Clinton on the ballot?
Clinton: I regret deeply there is a Bush in the White House. We are judged on our own merits. It is a grueling process. No one has an advantage. I want to be judged on my merits. I am proud of my husbands accomplishments. It did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and I think it will take another Clinton to clean up after a second Bush.
Doyle: You’ve called for all troops out of Iraq. Could this turn to an open ended engagement?
Clinton: I think all of them should be out in a year. But we have to be careful. Last fall I got into a back and forth with the Pentagon over plans. On my first day I will ask for a plan for withdrawal. It is not only taking our troops out. There are over 100,000 other Americans working in Iraq. Also, what about the Iraqis who helped us and worked for us. We have to tell the Iraqi government they are out of time. We know this president wants to leave over 130,000 troops when he is out of office. I will get as many troops out as quickly as I can. I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year.
Obama: I will end this war. No permanent bases. McCain suggests we might be in Iraq a hundred years. We are serious about his process. Both of us will protect our embassies and protect Iraqis who worked for us and to have a strike force. We have to be careful about mission creep. I will offer a clear contrast against republicans on the war.
Wolf: a clear swipe at you Senator Clinton?
Clinton: I am proud to have the support of Maxine Waters who is an original conventor of the “Out of Iraq” caucus. This is treacherous terrain. We need to send several messages. The Iraqi government has to get serious; same message to the region such as Iran and Syria because they will be drawn in as we withdraw to sectarian violence. The other point is that we need to prevent Bush from committing our country to a permanent presence in Iraq. We will do every thing we can.
Cummings: Judgment on Iraq? You could have voted for the Levin Amendment?
Clinton: I believed we needed to put inspectors in. And I have great respect for Senator Levin. But that Amendment would subordinate our judgment to the U.N. Security Council. I did vote with Senator Byrd to try to restrict the authority to one year. Now we have to decide how to go forward. McCain has accused me of “surrendering”. We have to press our case. But our nominee has to present a reasoned argument and cross the threashold of gravitas.
Wolf: Petraus says there has been progress.
Obama: I welcome the progress. But we have set the bar low. This has undermined our security. It is much easier for the Democrat to argue I was against it from the beginning.
Wolf: Why can’t you say it was a mistake?
Clinton: I did a lot of research. I believe in coersive diplomacy. I thought the inspectors going in was a good idea. What no one could have fully appreciated was how obsessed this president was about this mission. But if I had been president we would not have been diverted from Afghanistan. I visited there and it will take everyone and a lot of effort. We have to go into this campaign with the idea that we are strong as they are against terrorism and war. What are we going to do going forward. Force should be a last result.
Wolf: So you were naive and trusting of Bush?
Clinton: that is a good try Wolf. I respect Senator Obama giving his speech against the war. But then we voted the same. There was a credible case for sending inspectors in. Some people think this was a simple case. There were legitimate concerns over what Hussein would do.
Obama: I don’t want to belabor this. The legislation had the title to use military force in Iraq. People understood this was a potential vote for war. Senator Clinton makes the case that she is ready on day 1 and I think we have to be right on day 1. It’s not a function of looking backwards but looking forward.
Doyle: Too much sex and violence from entertainment?
Obama: Parents are ultimately responsible but it is important to those in the industry to think about who they are marketing these things to.
Cummings: Clinton, your husband has set off firestorms in the way he has dealt with Obama. If your campaign can’t control Bill now what about in the White House?
Clinton: This is my campaign. I want the focus on the issues, the work I have done. I am thrilled to have my husband and daughter helping me but at the end of the day I am the one on the ballot. As we go forward it is a choice between the 2 of us. It is a lonely job in the White House. The President makes the decisions.
Wolf: A Dream Ticket, the 2 of you? Would you consider that?
Obama: There is a difference in (top billing). It is too premature. Part of what I want to do is restore a sense of what government can do. People of independence, no more yes men or women. People need a sense that government is on their side. We are working for the American people.
Wolf: Is the answer yes?
Obama: Hillary would be on everyone’s short list.
Clinton: This has been an extradordinary campaign. There is a lot of intensity. We will have a unified Democratic Party. We will go into November prepared to win. On Monday night I will have a town hall on Hallmark Channel. For those who did not get there question answered watch the townhall.