Democratic Hopefuls Blast Away at Bush

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Most of the Democratic candidates for president were in California over the weekend, courting activists ahead of California's early primary and taking dead aim at President Bush.

They were in San Diego at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. The state moved its primary from June to Feb. 5, 2008, placing it just after traditional events in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The switch means California's primary could be pivotal in determining a nominee. New York and New Jersey have since followed suit in hopes of also increasing their clout in the process.

Delegates in San Diego feasted on a bruised and battered President Bush, who was savaged by every candidate who spoke — the sharper the barb, the louder the cheers.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York fantasized about just rewinding the 21st century.

"Just eliminate the Bush-Cheney administration with all of their misstatements, misjudgments and mistakes," she said.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois offered this take on the Bush tenure: "This president may occupy the White House but for the last six years the position of 'Leader of the Free World' has remained open," he said. "It is time to fill that role once more."

There was more riding on this weekend's speeches than on a typical stump speech.

These candidates don't just want the votes of the Democratic Party activists who were in the San Diego convention center. They were looking for volunteers to work phone banks and walk precincts.

Four years ago John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, was booed at this convention when he defended his vote for the war in Iraq. This time, he was repentant and all was forgiven.

"I was wrong to vote for this war. I should never have voted for this war, and I want you to know I'm speaking out with every fiber of my being to get us out of Iraq," Edwards said.

The only differences these candidates had on the war were about bringing the troops home. Some want them home soon while others want them home really soon.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio even proposed creating a federal Department of Peace. There were other issues they all discussed: poverty, education, global warming.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut touted his long years of experience.

So did New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. The former Energy secretary, U.N. ambassador and congressman asked the delegates not to look at his standing in the polls, but to look at his resume.

"Vote on the basis of who's the most qualified, who has the most vision — not who's the biggest rock star, not on who has the most money, not on legacies — but on who has the plan for America," he said.

Those veiled references to Clinton and Obama were as close as any of these candidates got to criticizing one another.

Richardson was right on the money in calling Obama a rock star though.

After the senator's speech, delegates stood in line and waited to be let into a room where they could sign up as Obama volunteers.

Barbie Deutsch was one of them. She says Obama reminded her of John F. Kennedy. "He just brings us hope and idealism," she said.

But most of the delegates are still undecided, pondering choices that one attendee described as "fabulous."



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