LOS ANGELES -- Fresh off a civil, policy-heavy debate with Hillary Clinton last night, Barack Obama argued today that his early opposition to the Iraq war and his appeal among independent voters make him a far stronger challenger to John McCain, whom he increasingly believes will be the GOP nominee.
Obama, picking up a thread from last night, said that Clinton had still not "adequately explained" her 2002 vote authorizing the war.
"That's important, because it speaks to the judgment that's going to be applied in future conflicts and how either of us would operate as commander in chief," he told reporters this morning at a press conference at a Los Angeles hotel. But Obama also suggested that if Clinton were the nominee, McCain would be able to make the Iraq debate about the execution of the war, not the fundamental question of whether the United States should have ever waged it.
"The problem with the war in Iraq was a problem of conception," Obama said.
Obama was even more pointed in his comments about Clinton's inability to attract new voters, which he said would severely inhibit Democrats if McCain, who has a proven ability to attract independent voters, were atop the Republican ticket.
"We can't start off just with the same playing field and expect to win," he said. "We've got to broaden the playing field. We've got to expand the electoral map."
Obama went on to cite the tremendous surge in Democratic voter participation in the primaries and caucuses to date. He won't take all the credit for that, he said, but he'll take a lot.
"I'm confident I will get her voters if I'm the nominee," Obama said. "It's not clear that she would get the voters I got if she were the nominee."