Democratic rivals debate Thursday night in Las Vegas

by Brooke Hart
NBC News

It was another verbal slugfest between Democrats running for President during the democratic debate in Las Vegas last night.

And all eyes were once again on the Democrats' national frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Clinton went into this debate saying she wasn't at her best in the last one.

This time she was ready to spar.

She addressed her rivals by name, and they didn't back down.

CNN'S Wolf Blitzer introduced Senators John Edwards and Barack Obama like they were prizefighters, and within minutes, they took off their gloves against Hillary Clinton on straight answers and change in Washington.

During the debate former Senator John Edwards said, "She continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged, and is corrupt".

Clinton stepped up her defense by saying, "Wolf, I can't let that go unanswered."

She then went directly after Senator Barack Obama's health care plan saying, "His plan would leave 15 million Americans out. That's about the population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire."

Clinton also accused John Edwards of using tactics from the Republican playbook to attack her.

"For him to be throwing this mud, and making these charges I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight. We need to put forth a positive agenda for America," said Clinton.

Democrats went on to tackle the issues of Pakistan, immigration and education.

Later, Clinton was asked why she's called the campaign a "Boys' Club."

"I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I'm just trying to play the winning card," said Senator Clinton.

At the debate last night, rivals tried to edge Clinton out, with only one debate remaining before the first vote.

This debate was seven weeks to the day from Iowa's first in the Nation caucus.

An open question this morning is whether Clinton's willingness to mix it up will charge up or turn off undecided voters.