Democratic presidential candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton pose for photographers prior to the CNN/Los Angeles Times Democratic presidential debate in Hollywood, California January 31, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
As Californian voters view economic issues as more important than the Iraq War, Democrat candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama were clashing over economic issues and the Iraq War.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' withdrawal Wednesday means the Democrats are virtually assured of becoming the first major party to nominate a woman – Clinton – or a black – Obama – for president.
Both candidates will weigh in Tuesday with their preference in their party's precedent-breaking presidential race in California, a stronghold for Democrats.
Both Clinton and Obama were trying to lure support by coming up with economic stimulus packages.
They have proposed stimulus packages in addition to earlier economic plans, basically aimed at aiding the middle class.
Clinton unveiled her five-part, 70 billion-dollar economic stimulus package in Commerce January 11.
Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton participate in a televised debate at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Her plan includes a 30 billion-dollar emergency housing crisis fund to assist states and cities to mitigate the effects of mounting foreclosures; a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures; and an automatic rate freeze on subprime mortgages of at least five years.
Clinton also called for 25 billion dollars in emergency energy assistance for families facing rising heating bills; accelerating five billion dollars in energy efficiency and alternative energy investments to stimulate "green collar" job growth; and a 10 billion-dollar increase in extending and broadening unemployment benefits.
She called on Congress to provide an additional 40 billion dollars in direct tax rebates to what she called working and middle-class families if the economy continues to worsen.
"In the face of rising global competition, our children's future is at stake, so we don't need more rhetoric, we need action. We need an immediate strategy to get our economy back on track. I would work with leaders from both parties to pass an aggressive, fast-acting stimulus package to create good new jobs and revitalize our economy," Clinton said.
Obama has proposed a 75 billion-dollar plan which includes giving an immediate 250 dollar tax cut for workers and their families; a 250 dollar bonus to senior citizens in their Social Security checks; an additional 250 dollars to both workers and Social Security recipients if the economy continues to worsen; aid to states hit hardest by the housing downturn and extending and expanding unemployment benefits.
"The American dream is slipping out of reach for many families whose paychecks aren't meeting the increased costs of their medical bills and tuition payments," Obama said.
Obama's plan has drawn criticism from Clinton's senior economic adviser Gene Sperling and the Republican National Committee.
Sperling said Obama's stimulus package "borrows heavily from Senator Clinton's but nonetheless comes up short."
In September, Obama proposed an economic plan, which included a middle class tax cut of 1,000 dollars per family and would eliminate taxes for senior citizens making under 50,000 dollars per year.
"Obama's first tax-and-spend economic plan was widely panned and his second is just more of the same," Republican National Committee Communications Director Danny Diaz said.
Clinton and Obama have both pledged to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
Obama has criticized Clinton throughout the campaign for her 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq. Obama had not been elected to the Senate when the vote was taken.
"I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place," Obama said at Thursday's debate at the Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles.
Clinton said she would begin to withdraw troops within 60 days of taking office and estimated it could take a year for a complete withdrawal.
"We have to think about what we're going to do with the more than 100,000 American civilians who are there, working for the embassy, working for businesses, working for charities."
Obama said "it is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."
"The one thing that I think is very important is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should have troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence. If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place."
Clinton's vote in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq was among the factors leading the Los Angeles Times to endorse Obama.
In its first presidential endorsements since 1972, The Times "strongly" endorsed Obama, calling him "the Democrat most focused on steering the nation toward constructive change."
Twenty-two states, including California, New York and Illinois, will hold primaries and caucuses Tuesday in the biggest one-day round of presidential primary voting in US history.
In California, 370 delegates to the August 25-28 Democratic National Convention in Denver will be at stake Tuesday, with 241 allocated proportionally on the results in each of the state's 53 congressional districts and the other 129 on the statewide results.
(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2008)