ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
If you hadn't been following the presidential race until today, you could be forgiven for thinking that you just tuned in to the general election campaign.
While Barack Obama is still in a tight race with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, today, Republican John McCain took direct aim at Obama, and the senator from Illinois quickly fired back.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
It began with Senator McCain mocking Obama for this statement from last night's Democratic debate.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): If al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interest abroad.
BLOCK: Senator Obama was responding there to a hypothetical question about what he would do if U.S. troops pull out of Iraq and then al-Qaida, as moderator Tim Russert said, resurges.
SIEGEL: Well, in Obama's answer, John McCain saw a weak point.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. Al-Qaida - it's called al-Qaida in Iraq.
Sen. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I do know that al-Qaida is in Iraq…
SIEGEL: During a rally in Ohio, Barack Obama taunted McCain right back.
Sen. OBAMA: But I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.
(Soundbite of cheers)
BLOCK: If Barack Obama does become the Democrats' nominee for president, duels like this one are likely to carry on until November.
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