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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carly Zakin
*** Clinton vs. Obama: The two Democratic front-runners have finally engaged, rather than simply allowing their staffs to go back-and-forth. The only thing that strikes us odd about yesterday's skirmish is that the candidates launched their attacks and counterattacks via such a small media venue (the Quad City Times). It's like two major deciding to go to war ... over the Falkland Islands. Yesterday our producers in New Hampshire tried to get Clinton to say her criticism on camera and she demurred. And neither candidate granted an interview to any other media on this issue. If neither candidate chooses to put their words on camera today, does this mean the skirmish is over?

Video: Clinton and Obama take off the gloves in 2008 spat

*** More On The Spat: Both sides appear to be going overboard on this issue: Obama's camp thinks this idea that they would do anything different than Clinton would on which world leaders they'd talk to (or even appear with) is absurd, while the Clinton camp believes Obama's answer at the debate is an example how he doesn't get that words matter and that should be a legit issue. Who was the biggest loser in yesterday's renewed focus on Clinton versus Obama? So far, it might be the rest of the Democratic field. Indeed, how odd is it that a debate about preparation to be commander-in-chief is taking place and the three candidates with the lengthiest resumes for the job (Biden, Dodd, and Richardson) are no where to be found on the debate?

*** Fred's Shakeup: So let us get something straight: Fred Thompson is not yet a candidate, and he's already had to shake up his leadership? (Maybe that's the lesson to be learned from McCain -- get your shakeup out early!) That said, the choice of Spence Abraham is something that should make establishment Republicans happy. He's got a good reputation as a strategist -- remember, before he served in the Senate, Abraham ran the GOP House campaign committee. Still, the shakeup before the campaign started only fuels speculation among some that Thompson's fledgling candidacy has gotten off to a rocky start (mixed reviews of his speeches, questions about his conservative credentials, delays in his campaign kickoff) before it truly has begun. There's additional speculation that Thompson's campaign is being micro-managed by his wife, Jeri.

*** Things That Make You Go, Hmmmm: A Bloomberg presidential candidacy has always seemed remote to many of us. But this mike2008.com Web site is already more detailed about this potential candidacy than the one Fred Thompson started (imwithfred.com). The Bloomberg folks say this was done to prevent cyber-squatting, but come on. Why shouldn't we start referring to Bloomberg as officially "exploring" a presidential campaign?

*** DLC, Yeah You Used To Know Me: The AP writes that none of the Democratic presidential candidates will be attending the centrist Democratic Leadership Council's conference this coming weekend. The news service says it's "a snub that says less about the centrist DLC than it does about a nomination process that rewards candidates who pander to their parties' hardened cores while ignoring everybody else." But perhaps more importantly, the DLC turned out to be wrong -- in most Democrats' eyes -- on the Iraq war. For better or for worse, the Democratic Party is now the party of Dean and Daily Kos (in fact, at least five of the top six '08 Dems have confirmed they'll attend next month's Yearly Kos conference). It worked for them in 2006… Will it be true again in 2008?

*** The E-Word: Today is as good of a day as any to understand why Giuliani is so resilient as one of the GOP front-runners. The Washington Post/ABC poll suggesting that electability is trumping questions about Giuliani's socially liberal views is one way. Then there's the LA Times' Brownstein insightful column that pinpoints just how Giuliani has avoided getting trapped in a death spiral for those liberal social views: he's a pure federalist, advocating for states to decide on their own what social issues to legislate and how to legislate them. And then there's Hillary Clinton. As long as she's the Democratic front-runner, the electability argument will always work for Rudy, right? That's what the campaign is banking on.

*** On The Trail: Brownback is in Iowa; so is Edwards, who participates in the Des Moines Register's Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with Lance Armstrong; Huckabee is also in Iowa; McCain campaigns in New Hampshire; Obama is in New York then DC; Richardson stumps in Iowa; Romney makes a whopping seven stops in New Hampshire; and Fred Thompson travels to Houston and Dallas.
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