EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

September 27, 2007

Democratic presidential hopefuls face off over war, baseball

HANOVER - Dubbed the "Duel at Dartmouth," the eight Democratic presidential candidates sparred over the war in Iraq and even their favorite baseball teams as they met on stage last night for their sixth debate.

Local voters who tuned in, on the 47th anniversary of the first televised presidential debate, said that while the candidates did a good job highlighting their differences, there was no real winner.

"It was the first debate I had a chance to see, so I was very interested to get a general sense of the different candidates," said Ola Lessard, 38, of Londonderry. "I felt like I was able to feel where each of them stood."

Lessard said that going into the debate, she was interested in Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. But her choices changed.

"Coming out of the debate, I think it's more of a split between Hillary and Barack, but I really liked Joe Biden," she said. "He stood out as being strong and very decisive. I liked what he had to say."

Chris Rossetti, 41, of Windham said he had his favorites going into the debate and wasn't swayed by last night's showing.

"I think all the candidates did a real good job distinguishing themselves," he said.

The war in Iraq and conflict with Iran dominated the first half of the two-hour debate, with Clinton, Obama and Edwards saying the drawdown of troops will depend on the circumstances.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut pledged to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013 - the end of their first term.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska urged the senators on stage to stay in Congress and vote against the war every single day for 40 days in a row.

Rossetti, who said the war is his top concern, thought the debate did a good job of showcasing the candidates' positions on the war. He thinks Congress should be doing more to challenge the president and while he said Gravel is "a little out there, I kind of, in a way, agree with him. I do think there is more they could do to put an end to this war and bring the troops home."

Although a large crowd flocked to the college's campus last night, and the local voters who tuned in said they were glad they did, other Southern New Hampshire residents said they had no plans to watch the debate.

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