SO YESTERDAY'S bizarre news was that two men had gotten into a violent fight over which Democratic candidate was more fit to be president: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The clash happened in a Col-

legeville home where Sean Shurelds, who favors Obama, allegedly tried to choke his brother-in-law Jose Ortiz, who likes Clinton.

Ortiz responded by allegedly plunging a kitchen knife into Shurelds' stomach.

I'm no Dr. Phil, but I figured that there had to be more going on between these two than the experience-vs.-charisma debate waging among Democrats torn between the two presidential candidates.

But Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Furman told me that, no, it appears this truly was a political argument, not a family feud (although analysis of the men's relationship history, she admitted, was "out of the jurisdiction of this office").

"One of the men said Hillary was 'trashing Barack,' " Furman said. "The other said that Barack is 'not a realist.' "

Their disagreement landed Shurelds in Hahnemann University Hospital with life-threatening spleen, lung and diaphragm injuries, and Ortiz in county jail on felony assault charges.

"My hunch," said Furman, "is that both of them regret the argument."

This wacko story made me giggle so much, I almost forgot that its outcome was almost fatal for Shurelds.

If he'd died, his death wouldn't have been the only senseless one in a week of stupid altercations.

He'd have joined 16-year-old Mark Riviera, who was shot to death on Saturday at 7th and Venango for giving a 17-year-old "a look," cops say.

And on Sunday, 16-year-old Teven Rutledge was shot in Feltonville for throwing snowballs around the wrong angry man. The teen died yesterday.

Every other minute in this world gone wild, someone gets snuffed out over something so trivial, it can make you afraid to cough too loudly on the bus, lest you trade your ride for a one-way trip in the coroner's van.

So forgive me for feeling relieved that Shurelds and Ortiz were at least warring over something that matters: the future leadership of the most powerful country in the free world.

I'll take my pathetic comfort where I can find it.

Besides, maybe it was just a matter of time before the Clinton-Obama drama devolved from the intellectual to the physical in a race that has become rancorous and family-splitting.

Though I doubt we'll ever see Comcast founder Ralph Roberts and his talk-show host wife, Suzanne - who support Obama and Clinton respectively - come to blows. Or, for that matter, Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Barack booster, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a Hillary-ite.

Who needs to duke it out in the family kitchen, when your pockets are as deep and your influence as powerful as it is for these families?

It's been five days since Shurelds argued with Ortiz, who is his wife's brother, and he still can't believe that a political disagreement almost took his life.

"It's crazy," he told me from his hospital bed yesterday. He will be discharged today to his home in Collegeville. "I talk politics in the barbershop all the time. We go at it. I'm used to arguments where we know it's not personal."

Shurelds says the argument with Ortiz began as he dissected, with great excitement, the Clinton-Obama debate he'd just watched. He loves Obama because of the hope he inspires.

"I said, 'Obama is winning this thing!' and my brother-in-law says, 'He can't win, be realistic.' I said, 'Let's see how realistic you are when he wins.' That was it. He just went after me."

In other words, Shurelds disputes D.A. Furman's version of events, saying he was defending himself from an attack that Ortiz started. Furman says her office is investigating the possibility that both men may share "some criminal responsibility."

Whatever. Shurelds just wants to put the event behind him.

"I told my wife I don't want to see her brother locked up. I don't think that will do any good. He needs help. To go after me like he did, that's not normal."

No, it's not.

Neither is killing a kid over a snowball, or a look. I'm just glad, for once, that the victim has survived to talk about it. *

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:

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