Fact-checking the debate

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are paying a price for artful dodges on trade over the years, a burden on display in their debate Tuesday night.

Thanks to past equivocations, the Democratic presidential candidates have left themselves open to the criticisms and misrepresentations they are now using against each other as they scramble to dissociate themselves from a trade agreement they once praised — with qualifications.

A polite but pointed showdown in Ohio

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama clashed over trade, health care and the war in Iraq Tuesday night in a crackling debate at close quarters one week before a pivotal group of primaries.

Charges of negative campaign tactics were high on the program, too.

Clinton said Obama’s campaign had recently sent out mass mailings with false information about her health care proposal, adding, “it is almost as though the health insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it.”

When it was his turn to speak, Obama said Clinton’s campaign has “constantly sent out negative attacks on us … We haven’t whined about it because I understand that’s the nature of these campaigns.”

McCain denounces racist comments

Republican John McCain quickly denounced the comments of a radio talk show host who while warming up a campaign crowd referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama and called the Democratic presidential candidate a “hack, Chicago-style” politician.

Hussein is Obama’s middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd before the likely Republican nominee’s appearance.

Sen. Chris Dodd plans to endorse Obama

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd will endorse Barack Obama in his bid for the White House on Tuesday, a source close to the Obama campaign said.

Dodd, a U.S. senator from Connecticut, dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in early January after placing sixth in the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest in the nation.

Obama, a senator from Illinois, and rival Hillary Clinton, a senator from New York and former first lady, are now battling for the nomination.

Clinton heads into last-chance debate

Faltering Democrat Hillary Clinton Tuesday faced one of her last chances to derail Barack Obama’s presidential express train at their final debate before make-or-break nominating contests next week.

After a day of running battles Monday, Obama headed into the televised debate in Cleveland, Ohio buoyed by new polls suggesting his rival senator’s national support was collapsing.

One of the polls by CBS News and the New York Times gave the Illinois senator a 16-point lead over Clinton among Democrats nationwide, 54 percent to 38 percent.

Obama’s momentum increases

Barack Obama has taken clear leads over Hillary Rodham Clinton among white men, middle-income earners and liberals, allowing him to catch his faltering rival in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, a national poll showed Monday.

Democrats see a train wreck coming

Remember the political teeth-gnashing eight years ago when Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote for president only to lose to Republican George W. Bush in the Electoral College after weeks of disputed vote-counting in Florida and contradictory decisions by the Florida and U.S. supreme courts?

The Energizer Bunny candidate

It is, as they say, a free country and Ralph Nader has decided to avail himself of that freedom to run for president — again.

The reaction of the remaining presidential candidates was not particularly welcoming, although having Nader, who is turning 74, in the field relieves John McCain, 71, of the burden of being the oldest candidate in the race.

Obama campaign calls photo a ‘smear’

A photograph circulating in the Internet of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama dressed in traditional local garments during a visit to Kenya in 2006 is causing a dustup in the presidential campaign over what constitutes a smear.

The photograph portrays Obama wearing a white turban and a wraparound white robe presented to him by elders in Wajir, in northeastern Kenya. Obama’s estranged late father was Kenyan and Obama visited the country in 2006, attracting thousands of well-wishers.

Obama nails Clinton over NAFTA support

Barack Obama accused Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday of trying to walk away from a long record of support for NAFTA, the free trade agreement that he said has cost 50,000 jobs in Ohio, site of next week’s primary.

At the same time, he said attempts to repeal the trade deal “would probably result in more job losses than job gains in the United States.”