Chicago Democratic rivals accused Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of being too cozy with lobbyists and Wall Street Tuesday, but the party's presidential front-runner portrayed herself as a champion of working people and commonsense policies, drawing cheers from a crowd of union activists.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, running second to Clinton in most polls, leveled some of the criticism but was forced to defend his own recent statements on Pakistan during the 90-minute debate sponsored by the AFL-CIO at Chicago's Soldier Field.
"You will never see a picture of me on the front of Fortune magazine," said former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, a dig at Clinton, who recently was featured on the business publication's cover.
Obama said U.S. trade agreements have tilted against workers because "corporate lobbyists" have had too much influence, a theme he has developed in recent days, especially when alluding to Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady.
Clinton, who appeared content with her front-runner status, replied: "The other campaigns have been using my name a lot."
"For 15 years, I've stood up against the right-wing machine," she said, as many in the crowd cheered. "If you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."
Obama's turn in the bull's-eye came when Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd chided him for recently suggesting he would strike terrorist targets in Pakistan if he had information about the location of al-Qaida terrorists, even without the permission of President Pervez Musharraf.
"General Musharraf is no Thomas Jefferson," Dodd said, but he is an ally in the war on terror.
Clinton joined in, saying to Obama, "you should not always say everything you think if you're running for president, because it has consequences across the world."
Obama shot back: "I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me."
Dodd, Clinton, Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.