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Commentary: Clinton vs. Obama is good for the voter

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland Martin says he expects Clinton, Obama to duke it out for Democratic nod
  • Clinton and Obama should "lob a few grenades" and see what happens
  • Martin says it's good for voters if Clinton and Obama go after each other
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a CNN contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago, Illinois. He anchors "Debate THIS!" on CNN at 8 p.m. ET Friday.

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Roland S. Martin: The Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama battle is good for the candidates and for voters.

(CNN) -- After months of dancing, dodging, love taps and bear hugs, Democratic presidential front-runners Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are finally going after each other with gusto.

Sure, I know we're six months from the first caucuses and primaries, and no candidate wants to peak too early or get themselves into trouble with an early attack, but it's evident that the two have created enough distance between them and the other six candidates that, barring a meltdown, they will duke it out for the nomination.

So it's time that they stop fooling around and lob a few grenades and see what happens.

It all started with a query from one of the more than three dozen people who had their questions aired Monday night in the CNN/YouTube debate.

Stephen Sorta of Diamond Bar, California, asked: "In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?"

Obama said he would meet with the leaders.

"The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous," he said, going on to acknowledge that even when President Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire," he continued to talk to that nation's leaders.

That led Clinton to follow up, not wasting time in trying to expose what some consider Obama's biggest drawback: lack of experience in foreign affairs.

"Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are," she said. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."

But instead of allowing her well-timed power shot at Obama to marinate, Clinton decided to continue the verbal assault, telling an Iowa newspaper the next day that the junior senator from Illinois was "naive on foreign policy."

That gave Obama his opening. He questioned her Iraq vote, and then compared her position to that of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Video Watch as Clinton calls the spat "silly" »

It then grew surreal when Republican candidates such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona seemed to slam Obama, thus agreeing with Clinton.

Is all this fascinating to political hacks and irrelevant to the voting public? I don't know, but it does fascinate me.

I want to see what happens when these two Democrats lock horns and challenge each other directly.

It's easy to say that they must attack the Bush administration, but that is a given. At some point Clinton and Obama must go after one another to show who truly has the mettle for the job.

This will not be the last time the two of them throw a few roundhouses. They have spent the last six months like boxers in the early rounds, dancing, bobbing and weaving, trying to stalk one another. Now it's time to start throwing some punches. And in a slugfest, you can bet the final rounds will be full of flurries and punches and counterpunches.

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Like it or not, there can be only one winner. And that won't be the candidate with the biggest bank account or the most endorsements. It will be the one who has the heart, passion, stamina and willingness to use everything in his or her arsenal to win the job.

When thinking of these two and the fight for the Democratic nomination, all I can think of is what longtime boxing referee Mills Lane used to say to the boxers when he finished reading them the fight rules, "Let's get it on!" E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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