(CBS/AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton said emphatically Wednesday night that Barack Obama can win the White House this fall, undercutting her efforts to deny him the nomination by suggesting he would lead the party to defeat.
"Yes, yes, yes," she said when pressed about Obama's electability during a campaign debate six days before the Pennsylvania primary.
Asked a similar question about Clinton, Obama said "Absolutely and I've said so before" - a not-so-subtle response to suggestions from his rival that he could not defeat Republican Sen. John McCain.
In a 90-minute debate, both rivals pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000, and said they would respond forcefully if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and uses them against Israel.
"An attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation by the United States," said Clinton.
Obama said, "The U.S. would take appropriate action."
In a debate that moved swiftly between politics and policy, Clinton also issued a first-ever public apology for having claimed erroneously that she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire in 1996 as first lady.
"I may be a lot of things but I am not dumb," she said, adding that she had written in her book that there had been no gunfire during the episode. She said she was embarrassed by her error. "I'm sorry I said it," she added.
She previously had explained her incorrect comments by saying she had misspoken.
Obama was asked at one point whether he believed Clinton has been fully truthful as a candidate. "I think that Senator Clinton has a strong record to run on. She wouldn't be here if she didn't."
Both Obama and Clinton sidestepped when asked if they would place their rival on the ticket as vice presidential running mate in the fall.
"I think very highly of Senator Clinton's record, but I think it is premature at this point to talk about who the vice presidential candidates will be because we're still trying to determine who the nominee will be," Obama said.
Clinton was similarly noncommittal. "I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next January. I think that has to be the overriding goal," she said.
"Much of the discussion from both candidates was aimed at convincing remaining primary voters, and the party’s superdelegates, that each of them is the strongest choice to go up against John McCain in the general election," said CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. “Clinton in particular remains in a position where she must convince a shrinking pool of voters and party leaders that Obama is too risky a choice to select for an election which presents a golden opportunity for the party. She did little tonight to further that argument, even allowing for the first time that her opponent would be able to defeat John McCain.”