Video: All eyes on Obama

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/26/2007 9:11:48 PM ET 2007-04-27T01:11:48

Tonight, all eyes are on the man now challenging Hillary Clinton for the lead — a relative newcomer — Barack Obama.

Late this afternoon, candidates arrived on the South Carolina State campus — just in time to check out the stage for tonight's debate. Four of them, senators, had to hustle to get to South Carolina after voting on the Iraq spending bill.

On Iraq — and other issues — the spotlight is on Obama, edging up on Clinton in the polls. He's got plenty of sizzle — huge crowds — and has raised more money this year than Clinton. 

Now, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows he's trimmed her lead to only five points — 36 to 31 percent.

"When Democrats look at these two, they don't see a big gap, so they are intrigued by Barack Obama, and they also think he can win the race," says John Harwood, CNBC chief political correspondent.

But can Obama fill in the blanks on tough policy choices? At a health care forum last month, he didn't deliver.

"Well, we have a plan that we are in the process of unveiling," he said.

And critics said a foreign policy speech this week was long on vision, short on specifics.

Trying to put more pressure on Obama, John Edwards, a strong third in the latest poll, says: "I think the campaign is young. I mean, we should be fair, we got time to go, but this is the first presidential debate, so I would expect anyone who is in this debate to have some very specific substantive ideas about the big issues."

Tonight is also a chance for the second-tier candidates to try to break out of the pack and show they can compete with the front-runners.

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