On Sunday, the New York Times ran a CW-setting piece about the mandatory Massachusetts health-care plan, championed by Mitt Romney. But the piece appears to be geared at comparing the Dem candidates' plans for health-care coverage with how things are playing out in Massachusetts. Namely, the report raises questions on the idea of a "mandate" to force folks to get health care, a key part of Clinton's plan and one of the points of dispute between Clinton and Obama on this issue. From the piece: "But the reluctance of so many to enroll, along with the possible exemption of 60,000 residents who cannot afford premiums, has raised questions about whether even a mandate can guarantee truly universal coverage."
Look for the Obama folks to trumpet this piece and use the above fact as a key rebuttal to Clinton's criticisms.
Speaking of Clinton vs. Obama, NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan has a great "voter on the street" interview from someone who attended an Obama rally. "I remember John Kennedy being elected, and he was a brilliant man. But he had to learn on the job," Obama rally attendee David Bringman said. Like Kennedy, Bringman feels inspired by Obama but in times that are leaving many voters troubled, he feels that he can't take the risk to vote for him.
Those sitting around these two more talkative voters "amen'd" in agreement. These voters are echoing what many are saying as the leave town halls not just in Iowa but also in New Hampshire. As much as Democrats want to win this election and choose a candidate on the "electability" issue, which Obama has been winning points on, they also appear care just as much about who can do the job well. And in making that argument, Obama's argument in his stump speech "on who plays the game better in Washington" and calling for the need to bring new blood to the nation's capital doesn't appear to be convincing voters.
BIDEN: Here's a touching item from Friday's Des Moines Register, which hits on a subject Biden has a tough time talking about: the day in 1972 when his wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. "'I just don't ... it's hard to talk about. It's just hard ...' Biden trails off, pauses for several seconds, and clears his throat. His wife, Jill, looks on patiently.'" Biden also bused tables for about an hour at a diner in Iowa on Thanksgiving.
The Biden campaign is asking for money to pay for this newspaper ad, which plays up a theme the campaign has been trumpeting for a few weeks: that his opponents frequently say "Joe is right."
CLINTON: Over the weekend, the New York Times wondered whether running on experience in a change environment is a winning message. History indicates it often isn't. The piece seems to conclude that Obama's challenge is to pass a threshold test. "If Mr. Obama simply needs to clear an experience threshold — rather than exceeding Mrs. Clinton on that benchmark outright — the issue may prove less consequential than the Clinton team is hoping. That's partly why Mr. Obama is always recalling his early opposition to the war in Iraq — probably the biggest foreign policy decision of the last seven years, and one on which many in the party wish Mrs. Clinton had adopted Mr. Obama's position in 2002."
For more on this, NBC's Chuck Todd took a look at polling in '92 and '00 -- modest change election years when the candidate who was scoring highest on the experience front (Bush in '92 and Gore in '00) both lost.
Citing years of experience dealing with hard-willed Republicans, Clinton claims that she is "by far" the most electable candidate within the Democratic Party. "You know people talk about who can be elected and all that. But I believe I am by far the most electable Democrat, because I know exactly what I am getting into. I've got not illusions and there are no surprises and I am 100 percent ready." She then addressed recent criticism from the Republican candidates, saying, "You can't take it personally" and "I drive the Republicans crazy…I don't care."
Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register does the "is Bill Clinton an asset?" story. "The mixed reception of the Clinton White House is a far cry from four years ago, when the Democratic presidential candidates regularly cited the budget surplus, job growth and relative global peace the Clinton administration left behind after eight years in office."
Don't miss this Washington Post profile of major Clinton bundler Alonzo Cantu, who hails from South Texas. "Cantu offers a simple explanation for what he's doing for Clinton. "To me, there's two things that will keep us from being ignored," he said. "Money and votes. I think we've shown we can raise money. That will get us attention, or at least get us a seat at the table, get us in the room."
How potent is the immigration issue in Iowa? Check out what Clinton says about the issue. She could sound like any mainstream Republican on this issue: "'I believe in comprehensive immigration reform, but it starts with homeland security,' she said. 'You cannot move to comprehensive immigration reform until we have tougher, more secure borders.'"
EDWARDS: Per the campaign, Team Edwards today will announce "America Belongs To Us" week -- in which Edwards will spotlight a specific kitchen-table issue each day where he'll shakeup Washington. Today in Bow, NH, he will detail his plan to stand up for the underinsured against health-care companies that are trying to block reforms.
As the temperature drops and the price of oil goes up, it's inevitable that many candidates -- particularly in heating oil-dominant New Hampshire -- will start talking about the price of heating oil. Edwards outlined his plan to help struggling families on Sunday.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, "Edwards declined to discuss whether he would do anything differently as the party's presidential nominee based on what he saw as Kerry's running mate. He added that he rarely thinks about the four months they spent running together. 'I've made it a practice not to go back and analyze the campaign. I don't think there's anything to be gained from it. I don't,' he said. 'I'm sure you can get lots of other people to do it.'"
OBAMA: OK, let the Oprah craziness countdown begin... She debuts on the trail for Obama on December 8. The Obama campaign announced today that Oprah will join Obama for a tour through three early voting states on December 8th and 9th. Winfrey and Obama will hold two events in Iowa, one in South Carolina, and one in New Hampshire.
The Chicago Tribune notes, "Obama held a rare discussion of racial inequities on the Democratic presidential campaign trail in heavily white Iowa on Sunday… 'On every measure, on income, on health care, on incarceration rates, on the criminal justice system, on housing, on life expectancy, on infant mortality, on almost every single indicator, there is still an enormous gap between black and white,' the senator from Illinois said."
Obama hopes this is something that will happen more often. "Dan Barraford planned to vote for Hillary Clinton, until he listened to Barack Obama," writes the New York Daily News on a trip to New Hampshire. "Now he's undecided. 'Everything I heard about the guy is true: He's a fabulous speaker and he's a very smart man,' said Barraford, 64, moments after hearing Obama deliver a stump speech on a recent snowy afternoon here."
The New York Times runs a front-page profile of a colorful staffer, Rory Steele, who is in charge of Obama's efforts in Western Iowa.
RICHARDSON: "This war is not worth one human life, an American human life, the thousands of Iraqis," Richardson said in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register. "It should not be about body counts. It should be about, 'Is political progress being made?' No.'"
More: "The comment sparked the loudest applause of Richardson's hour-long talk, which also hit a high note when Richardson said Congress has been wimpy when it comes to finding withdrawal solutions."