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Hundreds of Alexandria Democrats descended here Feb.2  for the much-anticipated Jefferson-Jackson Day annual dinner, attended by another 6,000 fired-up Virginia political activists. The event raised more than $4 million for the Virginia Democratic Party and was made exceptional this year by the arrival of the two remaining presidential candidates in a hotly contested battle which may stretch out to the nominating convention in August.

Both Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) were intensely vying for the affections of political activists and the super-delegates in the room. They pulled out all the verbal stops at the annual fundraising dinner to make their case to party faithfuls and get-out-the-voter organizers.

Clinton used her speech at the dinner to unveil her new verbal campaign against the presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). I am ready to go toe to toe with Sen. McCain whenever and wherever he desires, Clinton said to thunderous applause. “The era of cowboy diplomacy is over.”

State Senator Patsy Ticer of Alexandria, a Clinton supporter, said her experience will give her the edge. She is full of content and commitment to our democratic values, Ticer said. 

Others, like Del. Brian Moran (D-46) and Alexandria Democratic Party Chair Sue Kellom are keeping their powder dry and not endorsing anyone. Both Moran and Kellum said they were thrilled that Democrats have two solid choices. Both candidates are wonderful-we should feel very lucky to have two fabulous candidates in contrast to the Republicans, Moran said.

Morans brother Rep. Jim Moran, who endorsed Obama the next day, said the real focus should be electing a Democrat in November. We are not about defeating fellow Democrats; we are about taking back America from radical GOP opposition.

Senate candidate Mark Warner does not regret his decision to abandon his presidential bid. He told the crowd that on the night of the New Hampshire primary last month he was just relishing his role as father. “That night I took my daughter and two friends to a Hannah Montana concert,” he said. 

Obama was quick to pay homage to Warner, who has not endorsed anyone for president, though his wife Lisa Collis is supporting Obama. “I’m just hoping to hang on to Mark’s coattails,” Obama said.