San Diego Wooing influential California Democrats, presidential contender Barack Obama vowed to "turn the page on this Iraq disaster" while Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced President Bush's conduct of the war as "one of the darkest blots on leadership we've ever had."
California, long a major cash source for candidates of both parties, is poised to become more influential in the electoral process as well, having moved its primary to next Feb. 5. As a result, the state Democratic weekend convention was expected to attract all the party's major presidential contenders except Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who was campaigning in South Carolina.
Saturday's program featured appearances by front-runners Clinton and Obama, as well as Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Clinton unleashed an unusually personal critique of Bush, accusing his administration of ignoring scientific evidence about global warming and stem cell research and lying about the effects of toxic dust at the World Trade Center site.
Her voice hoarse from days of campaigning, Clinton brought the 2,000 delegates to their feet when she said she wished she could turn back the clock.
"Somebody said to me that he wished we could just rewind the 21st century and just eliminate the Bush-Cheney administration, with all their mistakes and misjudgments," she said to cheers. "People are ready for leaders who understand it is our votes who put them in power, our tax dollars that pay the bills."
Obama, who has made his early opposition to the Iraq conflict a central theme of his campaign, told delegates he was proud to have bucked popular opinion at the time. It was a subtle but direct jab at Clinton, who voted in 2002 to grant Bush authority to invade Iraq.
He also renewed his call for the political parties to find common ground where they could and declared it was time to "turn the page" on issues like health care, education and energy independence.
But he, like Clinton, also leveled a sharp critique of Bush, saying "the president may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open."
Both Obama and Clinton were received warmly by the left-leaning, activist crowd - a stark contrast to the same convention four years ago, when the party was bitterly divided over the Iraq war.