Clinton, Obama Face Off in Mild-Mannered Hollywood Debate

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama met face to face for their last debate before Tuesday's California primary. But if you were looking for fireworks, you were likely disappointed. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde reports the tone inside the Kodak Theatre reflected the one outside: a friendly rivalry rather than a bitter knock down, drag out fight.

Kitty Felde: The courtyard at Hollywood and Highland was filled with fans of both senators. They waved signs like "Bricklayers for Hillary" and "Barack, welcome to Hollywood." But the tone was more that of a street party than a nasty dispute within the Democratic Party. Twenty-somethings Paula Black and her friend Devin Geamard were thrilled to be here.

Paula Black: It is people, cameras, excitement, everybody's just so excited.
Devin Geamard: It's alive. The whole scene is alive. People are moving. It's great. I love it. Go Obama.

Felde: Cindy Kirchen came out with her 24 year old daughter to support Hillary Clinton.

Cindy Kirchen: We really believe that it's time to have a woman in the White House. She's got more experience than all the men, across the board.
Daughter: And not just Democratic men.

Felde: But even the Kirchens couldn't be too critical of those who support the senator from Illinois.

Cindy Kirchen: I think you have a lot of first timers that are just jumping on a bandwagon to be on a bandwagon. If you sit down and ask 'em, "What are Obama's platforms, and how does he expect to pay for these programs," you draw a blank stare.

So I think it's an uneducated crowd in there. But it's good to see people wanting to get the Democrats in office, quite frankly. At least they're not staying home. They're doing something about it.

Felde: The debate itself was equally civil. Criticisms were tempered with politeness, as in this exchange over driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Senator Barack Obama: The only point I would make is Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political. Now at this point, she's got to clear position, but it took a while.
Senator Hillary Clinton: Well, I just have to correct the record for one second, because obviously we do agree about the need to have comprehensive immigration reform, and if I recall, about a week after I said I that I would try to support my governor, although I didn't agree with it personally, you were asked the same question and could not answer it. So this is a difficult issue.

Felde: In the spin room after the debate, no one seemed surprised at the cordial tone. Obama supporter L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti knows something about debate etiquette. He was part of the debate squad in high school.

L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti: First of all, it was not the bloodsport that everybody was looking for. It showed a Democratic Party that can agree to disagree at times, but is united in a contrast with Republicans.

Felde: Congressman Brad Sherman of the San Fernando Valley is a Hillary Clinton supporter. He says the candidates made a conscious decision to speak positively about themselves, rather than attack each other.

Congressman Brad Sherman: I think this is a party that wants to unify behind its nominee. And not a party that wants to see its candidates make that impossible. The Democratic Party that some of us remember is the one that loses. We know and love the new Democratic Party that's going to win.