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Clinton, Obama: Just the two of them in debate

  • Story Highlights
  • Debate will be last time top Democrats face off before Super Tuesday contests
  • Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to go one-on-one for first time together
  • Ex-Sen. John Edwards suspended presidential campaign Wednesday
  • Debate will start at 8 ET on Thursday night on CNN and CNN.com
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will duel for Super Tuesday votes Thursday night as the Democratic presidential hopefuls face off for the first time together minus former Sen. John Edwards.

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Thursday's Democratic debate will take place at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.

The debate -- sponsored by CNN, the Los Angeles Times and Politico -- starts at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on CNN and CNN.com. CNN's Wolf Blitzer is the moderator.

The event is the first Democratic debate since Obama's convincing victory Saturday in South Carolina. On Tuesday, Clinton won the Florida primary, a contest her campaign said helped the senator regain momentum even though it awarded no delegates.

The forum at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood comes hours after the Obama campaign revealed it had raised $32 million in January from roughly 170,000 new donors. That amount will allow Obama to expand his television ad buys greatly in the 20-plus states holding primaries or caucuses Tuesday. Video Watch a time-lapse construction of the debate set »

The Clinton campaign would not indicate how much money it had raised in the same time period.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, the other Democratic candidate still in the race, wasn't invited to participate in the debate because he did not meet certain criteria, including support in national polls. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted January 14-17, Gravel received less than 1 percent.

Edwards suspended his presidential run Wednesday in New Orleans, Louisiana, but he didn't endorse any candidate despite what aides described as furious lobbying campaigns by Obama and Clinton.

CNN California Debates
The Democratic candidates face off in the last debate before Super Tuesday.
Tonight, 8 ET

Thursday's debate may be slightly more restrained than last week's brutal showdown. Following her South Carolina loss, Clinton has largely steered clear of opportunities to take aim at Obama.

Former President Clinton also has avoided criticizing his wife's rival after dominating headlines with his attacks in the days before the South Carolina vote.

The economy is likely to dominate Thursday's debate, as both candidates look to appeal to supporters of Edwards and his brand of economic populism.

Hillary Clinton and Obama have split victories in their parties' early-voting states: Obama has won in Iowa and South Carolina, and Clinton has won in New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan and Florida. But the Michigan and Florida contests awarded no delegates, and all major Democratic presidential candidates pledged to avoid campaigning in those states following national party penalties against them for moving up their contests so early.

Clinton was the only major candidate to appear on the Michigan ballot.

Obama is leading Clinton in the number of pledged delegates -- those awarded based on primary or caucus votes. Clinton has the edge when superdelegates are factored in. (Superdelegates are party leaders and elected officials who are not obligated to support a particular candidate. They can change their decisions at any time leading up to the Democratic National Convention in August.)

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To date, Obama has won an estimated 63 national convention delegates as a result of primary or caucus votes, while Clinton has earned an estimated 48 delegates. Clinton, however, has the overall lead in delegates -- 232 to 158 -- when superdelegates are included.

With solid fundraising numbers and a nod from Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts this week, Obama will be making the claim he holds the front-runner title. But Clinton -- who has led in national surveys for much of the race -- will be making her case as well. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report.

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