Democratic presidential hopefuls strapped on their political gloves once more for the next round of debates. The 90-minute bout, a relatively clean fight, was not without a few jabs. Topics of the February 25th debate held at Cleveland State University addressed healthcare, the war in Iraq, and NAFTA.

The unpopular free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico was a major topic of debate. Many blue-collar workers are widely opposed to the agreement and their votes weigh heavily in Ohio democratic primaries.

Clinton stated, “I will say to Mexico that we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it.”

Obama accused Clinton of playing both sides of this matter, indicating her position on the issue changes to accommodate the particular audience. “This is something I have been consistent about,” Obama stated regarding his opposition to NAFTA. Interestingly, neither candidate stated they would withdraw from the agreement if elected.

Both parties criticized the Bush Administration for the poor choices surrounding the war in Iraq. Both Clinton and Obama ensued in a short debate disputing who is more opposed to the war. Clinton initially voted to authorize the war in 2002.

In light of the controversy surrounding the mass mailings distributed by both campaigns, the topic of negative campaigning also took center stage.

Sen. Clinton appeared up in arms a week ago when, in an off the cuff press conference, Clinton declared, “Every Democrat in Ohio ought to be outraged. Shame on you, Barack Obama.” Clinton went on to issue a challenge to Barack stating, “Meet me in Ohio. Let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”

Around the same time of the mass mailings, a photograph of Sen. Obama appeared on The Drudge Report’s website alleging Clinton staffers provided the image. Sen. Obama’s camp stated the distribution of this photograph was an effort to incite “fear mongering.”

During the debate, Clinton said her campaign had nothing to do with the publication of the photograph to the best of her knowledge. Obama addressed the matter by stating, “I take Senator Clinton at her word that she knew nothing about the photo.”

Senator Clinton once held a significant lead over her opponent but now, various polls show Clinton and Obama to be running a very tight race.

With primaries in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island quickly approaching in the next few days, political analysts suggest Clinton must do exceptionally well in Texas and Ohio if she’s to remain a contender. Texas and Ohio are both high delegate states.

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