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Oh-eight (D): Hillary slipping in SC, NH?

A new Clemson University South Carolina poll shows Clinton slipping and Obama pulling within a statistical tie. Clinton is at 19%, Obama 17%, and Edwards 12%. But about half say they are still undecided. When the poll was last taken in August, Clinton held a double-digit lead and stood at 26%.

In New Hampshire, Clinton holds double-digit lead in a new poll. Here are the numbers: Clinton 34%, Obama 22%, Edwards 15%, and Richardson 9%. The same poll in June showed Clinton with an 18-point lead.

BIDEN: At his town hall speech on Iraq today, Biden will say, according to excerpts his campaign released to First Read: "Security in Iraq is better, though it remains an incredibly dangerous and violent place. That's great news and it is due in no small measure to the extraordinary skill and bravery of our troops. They will accomplish any mission we give them. Over and over again, they've done their job in Iraq.  The problem is, the President has not done his. Remember, the stated purpose of the surge was to allow Iraqis to come together politically. There is no evidence – none – that that has happened."

More: "There is only one path to a durable political settlement in Iraq and it's the one I proposed more than a year ago and that 74 other senators recently endorsed: decentralize power; give Iraqis local control over the police, jobs, education, services; keep a limited central government to distribute oil revenues; and bring in the UN to oversee this political settlement."

Biden tells the Des Moines Register, "I think one of us is going to end up supplanting one of the so-called top-tier candidates, I think, if you take a look, you give us each sort of our day, our time in the barrel to see if we rise up."

CLINTON: One has to wonder if we're going to see Bill Clinton stumping on his own very much between now and caucus day. For the second campaign swing in a row, something he said  -- this time on Iraq – is lingering for multiple news cycles.  Per the Washington Post,  "A former senior aide to then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice disputed Bill Clinton's statement this week that he 'opposed Iraq from the beginning,' saying that the former president was privately briefed by top White House officials about war planning in 2003 and that he told them he supported the invasion."

More from the story: "Hillary Mann Leverett, at the time the White House director of Persian Gulf affairs, said that Rice and Elliott Abrams, then National Security Council senior director for Near East and North African affairs, met with Clinton several times in the months before the March 2003 invasion to answer any questions he might have. She said she was 'shocked' and 'astonished' by Clinton's remarks this week, made to voters in Iowa, because she has distinct memories of Abrams 'coming back from those meetings literally glowing and boasting that 'we have Clinton's support.'"

The New York Daily News covers Clinton's tough speech on health care yesterday. "'Among the Democrats, all of us except Sen. Obama have universal health care,' zinged Clinton, insisting Obama's plan would leave out 15 million people because it doesn't force everyone into coverage."

The Boston Globe: "Hillary Clinton yesterday launched one of her most pointed attacks yet against chief rival Barack Obama, charging that his healthcare plan would leave millions of uninsured Americans 'virtually invisible.'"

But the Obama folks are very happy with the coverage Clinton's attack on Obama got in Iowa yesterday. This clip from WHO-TV shows the station emphasized that Clinton's speech in Iowa was two hours late due to a plane problem in DC. The Clinton attack on Obama didn't get play until about half way through the story.

Interestingly, per NBC's Christina Jamison, Clinton didn't deliver some additional soundbites that were promised according to the excerpts the campaign released before the speech. Per those excerpts, she was supposed to take a couple more shots at Obama:
-- "I believe this is an issue that requires each of us to have the courage of our convictions --not just to talk big, but to act big. Putting band-aids on the problem simply isn't enough. Now is not the time for half-measures.
-- "I have always stood my ground for universal healthcare, but when Senator Obama's moment came to step up -- he blinked."

Asked for a response about these omissions, Clinton spokesman Jay Carson told Jamison that Clinton substituted "tougher stuff" about betraying Democratic values.

The Clinton camp continues to push the health care issue as a contrast with Obama. The campaign is releasing letters from health-care professionals throughout Iowa and New Hampshire, who will ask Obama to re-do his health care plan "and release one that actually provides universal coverage."
 
Meanwhile, Clinton is up with a new TV ad on the economy. It's not quite Clinton to camera but instead, is made to look like Clinton is giving an interview on the subject as she's looking just off camera.

EDWARDS: "When John Edwards returned to his alma mater in 2005 to found a poverty think tank, the multimillionaire attorney sought more than just a salary: He also wanted tickets to University of North Carolina sporting events," the AP reports. But a school spokesman said, "Senator Edwards received no tickets -- and no promise of tickets -- in connection with his university employment."

Is there a reason why the N.Y. Daily News' lead gossip column decided to revisit the Edwards-affair rumor?

OBAMA: The Washington Post does the Obama-Muslim story and ponders: "While considerable attention during the campaign has focused on the anti-Mormon feelings aroused by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), polls have also shown rising hostility toward Muslims in politics. It is not clear whether that negative sentiment will affect someone who has lived in a Muslim country but does not practice Islam."
 
More: " In the past few months, Obama has actively touted his Christianity, particularly in South Carolina, where his campaign hosted a gospel tour to appeal to black voters. He describes his movement from a 'reluctant skeptic' to a believer during his 20s while he was working with black churches in Chicago as a community organizer."

There's a potential "gotcha" story in today's Chicago Sun-Times, which alleges that Obama may have knowingly helped a political donor while on a charity board. But the piece doesn't seem to prove a quid-pro-quo -- but simply offers up circumstantial evidence that used in a direct mail piece or a negative TV ad could paint Obama as a "typical Chicago politician" if older voters in Iowa still believe "Chicago politics" is synonymous with "dirty politics."
 
The Sun-Times headline may be all the Clinton or Edwards camps need for their mailers: "Obama helped ex-boss get $1 million from charity."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells First Read, "The facts are clear -- seven years ago while serving in a charitable board position for a foundation that helps redevelop underprivileged communities, Barack Obama voted with many others in support of a project, funded with other foundations, to help build more affordable housing and bring new retail options to low income neighborhoods that were considered too risky for traditional investors. It was good for the community then and now and it was the right thing to do."

RICHARDSON: The Richardson 500 Tour with the racing Unsers begins today in New Hampshire.