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Clinton, Obama tone down personal attacks -

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LISA MILLAR: After a week of extremely personal criticism, the Democratic Presidential candidates
now seem eager to temper their attacks on each other.

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been using a televised debate to renew their sparring
over his portrayal of small-town Americans as "bitter", their clashes haven't been as heated as in
the past.

Yet both candidates are still locked in a tight battle to win their party's Presidential
nomination, the next test coming in the state of Pennsylvania next week.

Washington Correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: It's been six weeks since the last votes were cast, and a little longer since these
two Democratic White House hopefuls have faced off in a debate.

Hillary Clinton's challenge is to convince voters she's more electable, but she's had to concede
that Barack Obama could win the Presidency too.

HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, yes, yes. Now, I think that I can do a better job. I mean, obviously, that's
why I'm here!

KIM LANDERS: No surprise either that Barack Obama has acknowledged his rival has winning qualities

BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely, and I've said so before. But I too think that I'm the better candidate.

KIM LANDERS: As Democrats in the state of Pennsylvania prepare to vote next week, Hillary Clinton
is facing a daunting task.

Barack Obama has a 10-point lead when Democrats are asked who they'd like to see go up against
Republican nominee John McCain.

And a new poll out today also shows almost six-in-10 Americans don't think Hillary Clinton is
honest and trustworthy.

It seems her wildly exaggerated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in the 1990s is
still haunting her.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologised for it, I've said it was a
mistake. And it is, I hope, something that you can look over.

KIM LANDERS: It's certainly something that Barack Obama seems willing to let go.

BARACK OBAMA: I think Senator Clinton deserves the right to make some errors once in a while,
obviously I have made some as well.

KIM LANDERS: Barack Obama continues to insist that he mangled his words when he said last week that
some small town Americans are "bitter" and have turned to God and guns.

But Hillary Clinton isn't so forgiving.

HILLARY CLINTON: I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith
in times that are good and times that are bad. And I similarly don't think that people cling to
their traditions like hunting and guns.

KIM LANDERS: Simon Jackman is a Professor of political science at Stanford University.

He says one thing has struck him about this debate.

SIMON JACKMAN: The noted civility of it, frankly, relative to the hostility of the week or two
leading up to the debate. There's been an awful lot of fireworks out on the campaign trail, but
when the candidates have gotten together now, face to face, it's been much a more civil encounter
than one would have thought.

KIM LANDERS: Has Hillary Clinton done anything in this debate that would sow some doubts about
Barack Obama's viability as a candidate and make her leapfrog over him into the lead position?

SIMON JACKMAN: I don't think so. I think there's a lot of steady-as-she-goes coming out of this
debate tonight. I don't think either candidate has said anything particularly dramatic that's
likely to change the way the Pennsylvania primary will play out and nor the North Carolina one, two
of the big states yet to go.

KIM LANDERS: With no end to this campaign in sight, do you believe that Americans are growing a bit
weary of this process? Are these Democratic candidates bashing each other up for no ultimate
purpose or result?

SIMON JACKMAN: Yes, I do. I do. There's a little bit of that. I think that's clear in the polling
numbers that we're seeing. Democrats would dearly love this to be over so they can focus on the
main game, and that's John McCain and the Republican Party.

I'm struck by the reaction that you get in the polling data, or even from the audience there
tonight at the debate in Philadelphia. When the Democrats stop attacking one another and start
attacking the Republican record, I think there's a lot of Democrats who know this is a process they
have to go through, but would love it to be over.

And the longer it goes on and the more bitter it becomes, there's this chance that, you know,
Barack supporters will stay home if Hillary gets the nomination or that Hillary supporters might be
so embittered by seeing Barack get the nomination that they stay at home.

So there's some real dangers here. Remember, what Australian listeners have to remember, it's not a
system of compulsory voting. In November you've got to deliver your people to the polls, and if
they're sufficiently upset by the choices on offer, in America you can stay at home. And that's
what, I think, is spooking some of the elders in the Democratic Party as this process goes on and

KIM LANDERS: There are 10 more Democratic primary clashes to come.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.