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Oh-eight (D): Biden: Iowa or bust

A few more thoughts on how little has changed since the summer began… Despite her high unfavorable ratings, Clinton remains the Democratic front-runner, with a growing number of Democrats and pundits now convinced that she can win the whole enchilada. Despite his stagnant national poll numbers, Obama has the money and the excitement to give Clinton a run for her money in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Despite often being overshadowed by the other Dem front-runners, Edwards is still running strong in Iowa. And despite his gaffes, Richardson seems to be the second-tier candidate best positioned to vault into the first tier, although Biden (with his strong debate performances and security credentials) and Dodd (with his new IAFF endorsement) believe they're also poised to make a run.

The New York Times has two CW-setting man/woman-on-the-street pieces about the Dem and GOP races. Here's the one on the Democrats: "The interviews suggest that Mrs. Clinton has made progress in her effort to present herself as the most qualified of the candidates… Mr. Obama has made a strong and favorable impression on voters, but appears not to have erased the concern — fanned by Mrs. Clinton's campaign with its emphasis on experience — that he might not be ready to be president. A number of voters said they wished Mr. Obama had waited to run and suggested he would be a much stronger candidate in four or eight years… Democrats expressed some admiration for Mr. Edwards — but offered concern that he had decided to push ahead with a presidential campaign after learning that his wife, Elizabeth, had suffered a recurrence of cancer and that it was not treatable."

BIDEN: It's Iowa or bust for Biden… He says he needs to finish second, maybe third, in Iowa to remain in the presidential race. "I'm counting on Iowa a lot," Biden said. "My expectation is that I come in first, second or an indistinguishable third. To tell you the truth, if I don't, then this has been a nice exercise and I'll see you again when you come to visit Washington."

CLINTON: The campaign's Labor Day kickoff included a concerted effort to prove Clinton is just as much of a change candidate as the rest of the Democratic field. Here she is debuting a new stump speech in New Hampshire: "'I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience,' the senator from New York said at an afternoon rally on the grounds of the state capitol in Concord. 'Well, with me, you don't have to choose. I have spent my whole life fighting for change.'"

It may strike the media as defensive a bit but it may be exactly what puts unconvinced Democrats into the Clinton camp (at least as a consensus second choice).

The New York Times has a fun piece delving into exactly the role Bill Clinton is playing on the trail so far. "Mr. Clinton's words carry weight, even if his bias is obvious. He often tries to minimize that bias — as if that were possible — by offering a somewhat contorted testimonial: Even if they were not married, he says, he would still campaign for her as the best candidate."

Another controversial Clinton donor… The Washington Post on Monday detailed the financial woes of major fundraiser Sant Chatwal, an Indian American businessman who has been fighting the IRS over unpaid business taxes. Who is vetting Clinton bundlers faster: the campaign or the media?

Speaking of donors, the New York Times looks at the effort by Indian firms and their efforts to defend outsourcing. Here's an interesting graph: "The Indian vendors' main worries are two Democratic candidates: Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, whose campaign has hinted at opposition to outsourcing, and John Edwards, former senator of North Carolina, who is running a populist campaign. Many Indian executives consider Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, more sympathetic to their industry, but they are concerned that she will be compelled to match the others' statements in a tight contest."

DODD: The Connecticut senator says the United States needs to let Iraqis decide what Iraq will look like. "While I respect those who come up with ideas on what Iraq ought to look like, that's exactly the problem we got into back in the early 20th century when the British decided what Iraq was gonna look like," he said in New Hampshire.

EDWARDS: In garnering new labor endorsements over the last week, the Edwards campaign has done something smart in convincing the CW definers of their significance. For instance, the campaign notes that of the 1.2 million unionized Steelworkers, they include 8,685 members in Iowa, 2,250 in New Hampshire, 3,171 in Nevada, and 6,330 in South Carolina. The Iowa and Nevada are the more important numbers since any new 1,000 participants a campaign finds is, literally, 1% more they'll potentially ensure themselves on Caucus Day.

Per the campaign, here's the four-state breakdown of their Carpenters endorsement: 3,907 members in Iowa, 12,618 members in Nevada, 2,136 members in New Hampshire, and 865 members in South Carolina.

KUCINICH: He met with the presidents of Syria and Lebanon over the weekend. The campaign touted the meetings in e-mailed releases, but there was little coverage of the meetings -- and the Syrian News Agency even referred to the Ohio congressman as a senator. Check out the photo of Kucinich sitting across from Syrian President Al-Assad.

OBAMA: The Illinois senator debuted a new stump speech in New Hampshire on Monday. Here's the nut graph: "So let's be clear: there are a lot of people who have been in Washington longer than me; who have better connections and go to the right dinner parties and know how to talk the Washington talk. Well I might not have the experience Washington likes, but I believe I have the experience America needs right now."

The Union Leader gave Obama's press shop the coverage it desired: the speech was seen as a veiled shot at Clinton.

RICHARDSON: Richardson wants to forgive college loans with a year of national service. "As part of your college loan structure -- in other words we'll pay them off, if you give your country one year of national service: work in a forest, clean up a forest ... work in a hospital, go in the military, go in the Peace Corps, go in Vista," Richardson said in New Hampshire. 
 
God's caucus? "Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary," Richardson said.