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Hillary, Obama clash as debate gets personal

world Updated: Jan 22, 2008 17:41 IST

A simmering feud between Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama erupted into charges of distortion and exaggeration in an acrimonious presidential debate five days before the pivotal South Carolina primary.

Even in the superheated atmosphere of their fight for the party's nomination, the statements and exchanges between Clinton and Obama were unusually acrimonious and personal. Clinton accused the Illinois senator of representing a Chicago slumlord and Obama countering that she had been a corporate lawyer for anti-union Wal-Mart.

The debate came as the two campaigns continued to complain about dirty politics and disenfranchisement of voters in Saturday's Nevada caucuses.

As Obama tried to defend his recent comments about Republican ideas and Ronald Reagan, Clinton interrupted and said she has never criticised his remarks on Reagan.

"Your husband did," said Obama, who has accused the former president of misrepresenting his record.

"I'm here. He's not," she snapped.

Obama persisted, suggesting the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters.

"There was a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate," Obama said. "I think that part of what people are looking for right now is someone who is going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington."

Clinton countered: "I believe your record and what you say should matter."

Former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who badly trails his two rivals, tried to stay above the fray while pleading for equal time.