(CNN) – Democratic presidential candidates pledged new approaches to Iran, promising diplomacy with America's enemies.
Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina responded to a question posed by an Iraq war veteran and his mother, both worried he would be called back to duty, but in Iran.
"What I think is most important is that we have aggressive diplomacy with Iran," Clinton said. "I believe that the Bush administration has allowed this situation to worsen and fester because they won't have any diplomatic relations of any sort with Iran."
President Bush recently declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization that proliferates nuclear weapons, which the candidates strongly opposed.
"We've seen this movie. We know how it turns out," Edwards said. "I think it is absolutely crucial for Democrats on this issue to show real strength, real backbone and stop this president from moving forward on Iran."
Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, explained that declaring the Guard a terrorist organization hurts Americans personally.
"It convinced the rest of the Muslim world this is really a war against Islam and not a war in Iraq," he said. "It caused the price of oil to head to a hundred dollars a barrel."
Obama, who missed the Senate vote due to campaigning, explained to the veteran, "It's not just going to have an impact, in terms of potentially having a war against Iran; it also gives this administration an excuse to perpetuate their failed strategy in Iraq. And that could mean that you could be redeployed in Iraq."
It was Biden, though, who provoked the biggest audience applause when he took a strong stance on the president and Iran.
"If he takes the country to war in Iraq (sic) without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached."
Biden at the time was speaking about Iran, not Iraq.
– CNN Contributor Adam P. Levy
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson favors more border enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform.
(CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson came to the defense of immigrants and criticized the proposal to build a fence along the border with Mexico during a CNN debate Thursday night.
"Two years ago, I was the first governor to declare a border emergency because the federal government wasn't doing its job in stopping the flow of drugs and people," Richardson said. "You know what, we should stop demonizing immigrants, we should stop doing that."
Richardson said he would create a path to legalization, punish employers that hire illegal workers, strengthen the presence of the National Guard along the border and improve diplomacy with Mexico. He slammed Congress for failing to pass immigration reform, saying it's less popular than "Dick Cheney and HMOs."
– CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) - The debate is over but the real action is getting under way.
I'm talking about the spin room, of course.
If you haven't attended one of these presidential debates, here's what happens when the debate ends:
All the actions shifts to the spin room, a location close to the debate hall. This is where surrogates for the presidential candidates tell journalists and bloggers what "really" happened during the debate. And that's called "spin."
It's like a scrum, with big-name surrogates surrounded by members of the media, all listening in for nuggets of knowledge.
The surrogates, of course, say their candidate won the debate, and they tell you why.
You won't see the top tier candidates in the spin room, but the second tier White House hopefuls often appear.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is in the spin room right now, giving an interview to a local TV station. He says the media is trying to make it a grudge match between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but he feels he got his points in.
A few yards away, the wife of Rep. Dennis Kucinich is getting ready to do an interview. My guess is she'll rave about her husband's performance.
And so it goes in the spin room.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
(CNN) - At the Democratic presidential debate, all the candidates agreed on at least one issue: their nominee as a Supreme Court justice would have to agree with the underlying tenants of abortion rights.
Citing the 14th Amendment, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, and the right to privacy, all the candidates agreed that they would require their nominee to believe in at least one of those principles.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, who previously chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the only candidate to preside over Supreme Court confirmation hearings, said he would look for someone with real world experience and appoint a woman.
"The next person appointed on the Biden administration is going to be a woman," Biden said. "We don't have enough women on the bench."
Related video: Picking Supreme Court nominees
– CNN Political Producer Xuan Thai
(CNN) - Addressing concerns over tainted products entering the U.S. marketplace from China, Democratic candidates sounded off at the CNN debate in Las Vegas by either criticizing one another or the current administration.
With tainted Chinese toy imports in the news ahead of the holiday season, candidates were asked if those who voted to fully open trade relations with China should bear some of the responsibility for consumers' fears.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said yes and scolded Sen. John Edwards for voting to open up trade relations with China, "understanding that workers were going to be hurt."
"Now, you're a trial lawyer, you knew better," Kucinich said to Edwards on stage at the debate.
The former North Carolina senator responded to the debate question, not Kucinich, saying he felt it was a mistake to allow "China to operate unfettered, to send dangerous products into this country, to not have the president of the United States hold them responsible for their trading obligations to the WTO."
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd called the Bush administration response to dangerous Chinese imports outrageous and said that "if a U.S. corporation produced contaminated toys or food, they would have been shut down in 20 minutes."
"When those products were announced to be contaminated, it should have stopped right then and there," he added.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said the U.S. should send its own inspectors over to China to ensure import safety.
– CNN Political Assignment Editor Katy Byron
Sen. Clinton denied that she had tried to play what pundits have called the "gender card" since an earlier Democratic presidential debate.
(CNN) - The Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination Thursday night swiftly rejected accusations that she may have been "exploiting gender as a political issue" through recent remarks about running for the presidency as a woman.
"I am not exploiting anything at all," Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York declared at the debate.
"I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas, I'm just trying to play the winning card. I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman. They're attacking me because I'm ahead."
The remarks drew applause throughout the room.
When pressed about her recent remark at her alma mater, Wellesley College, about how the school helped prepare her for the "all boys' club of presidential politics," Clinton responded, "It is clear, I think, from women's experiences, that from time to time, there may be some impediments. And it has been my goal, over the course of my lifetime, to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us but has particularly been significant to me as a woman."
She noted that while she is aiming "toward the highest, hardest glass ceiling," she is not "running because I'm a woman. I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running."
Clinton added that as she travels the country campaigning, some older women tell her they were born before a woman could vote and add, "I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House."
Asked whether any of them believe Clinton is playing a gender card, none of the other candidates on stage seemed to jump at the chance. Since former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was given the floor, he spoke only generally, saying, "I think that every single candidate on this stage should be held to exactly the same standard" and that voters should understand the differences.
Related video: The gender issue
– CNN's Josh Levs
When it came to the "gender card," former Sen. Edwards kept his gloves on Thursday night.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has significantly stepped up his attacks against rival Hillary Clinton recently, avoided taking a dig at the New York senator when asked by moderator Wolf Blitzer if she was playing the "gender card."
"I think that every single candidate on this stage should be held to exactly the same standard," Edwards said in response, before going into his standard stump speech on the differences between him and Clinton.
Edwards then drew boos from some in the crowd when he said Clinton took money from lobbyists.
"Wait a minute," Edwards said to the boos. "Voters have those choices, and they deserve to know that they have those choices, that there are in fact differences between us. But I think every one of us should be held to the same standard."
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made clear what he would do with private military contractors in Iraq if he was elected president. "I would pull out all the contractors," he said.
"What I believe we need to do is we need to reform our military," Richardson said in response to a question from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux about whether pulling contractors out of Iraq might put an additional strain on an already stretched U.S. military presence in there. "This is what I would do. This war in Iraq has bled us enormously, has bled our military enormously."
"I would find ways to keep the all-volunteer force. Now, I would say to you that I would have two more divisions in the Army, two more in the Marines," Richardson said. "I would increase military pay and educational benefits, a new GI Bill for our military."
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
(CNN) – As the Democratic presidential candidates fought for their chance to speak and clarify their stances in Thursday night's debate, their Republican contenders seemed to be the last thing on their minds. They threw jabs at each other and the Bush administration. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, even shot back at CNN's Campbell Brown, but still they made no mention of the Republican rivals.
In contrast, Clinton and the Democrats were the hot topic of conversation at last month's Republican debate held in Florida. Clinton's name was mentioned more than 35 times in the two hour debate.
"We're not going to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House by acting like Hillary Clinton," Mitt Romney said.
Democrats chose instead to try to draw distinctions among themselves on issues ranging from health care to the Iraq war and other foreign hot spots.
– CNN's Emily Sherman
Rep. Kucinich distinguished himself from the rest of the Democratic field when it came to the Patriot Act.
(CNN) - When debate moderator Wolf Blitzer told Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, that he was the only person at the Democratic debate who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act and voted agaist it, Kucinich said, "That's because I read it."
Outlining the votes that some of his fellow Democratic candidates cast and then later changed position on, Kucinich went on to say, "Imagine what it will be like to have a president of the United States who's right the first time. Just imagine."
Kucinich's allegations prompted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to later tell Kucinich to stop including him with the other candidates when criticizing votes they had made.
"By the way, Dennis, stop including me in all these votes," Richardson said. "I'm a governor, I'm in New Mexico. I'm not in Washington."
– CNN Political Producer Xuan Thai