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The Democrats who want to replace President Bush spent last evening in the capital of the state he once governed. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took to a stage in Austin, Texas. In 11 days Texas holds one of the big remaining nominating contests.

NPR's Mara Liasson reports that the candidates disagreed less on what the next president should do than on who was best qualified to do it.

MARA LIASSON: After 45 minutes of polite exchanges with little disagreement about immigration, the economy, and whether or not to talk to Raul Castro, the new leader of Cuba, Senator Clinton was invited to repeat what she's been saying for weeks on the stump, that her opponent is all talk and no action.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): There are differences between our records and our accomplishments. I have to confess I was somewhat amused the other night when on one of the TV shows one of Senator Obama's supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Senator Obama and he couldn't.

LIASSON: Obama defended himself.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Senator Clinton of late has said let's get real, and the implication is, is that the people who've been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional. And the 20 million people who have been paying attention to 19 debates and the editorial boards all across the country and newspapers who've given me endorsements, including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas...

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: You know, the thinking is that somehow they're being duped, and eventually they're going to see the reality of things. Well, I think they perceive reality of what's going on in Washington very clearly.

LIASSON: Obama was also asked about something the Clinton campaign has been pushing hard, a charge that he plagiarized lines from speeches of Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts.

Sen. OBAMA: The notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who's one of my national co-chairs who gave me the line and suggested that I use it I think is silly.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. CLINTON: Well, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox. And I just...

Sen. OBAMA: Well, that's not...

Sen. CLINTON: No, but - you know, but Barack, it is. Because if, you know, if you look...

(Soundbite of booing)

LIASSON: Clinton was booed for that zinger. She also explored another line of attacks she's been using on the campaign trail against Obama, that quote "one of us is ready to be commander-in-chief." Asked why Obama wasn't ready, she cited her time as First Lady and her service in the Senate.

Sen. CLINTON: What I mean is that, you know, for more than 15 years I've been honored to represent our country in more than 80 countries, to negotiate on matters such as opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo, to stand up for women's rights as human rights around the world. I've served on the Senate...

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: Obama cited his judgment as a qualification.

Sen. OBAMA: I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I was prepared to be commander-in-chief. And...

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: ...on what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a commander-in-chief that I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: Clinton needed to do something last night that would blunt Obama's momentum after 11 straight victories. She's still leading in the polls in both Ohio and Texas, but not by much, and her lead is shrinking. At the end of the debate, Clinton seemed to acknowledge for the first time the possibility that she might not be the nominee.

Sen. CLINTON: No matter what happens in this contest, and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. CLINTON: And you know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about.

LIASSON: Clinton turned to Obama and reached out to shake his hand. It was gracious and warm, and if it didn't change the dynamic of the race, it did get her a standing ovation. Hillary Clinton still has one more opportunity to go face-to-face with Obama before the March 4th primaries. The two candidates will meet for one last debate next Tuesday in Cleveland.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Austin, Texas.

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