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The battle for Iowa

Today's Washington Post headline says it all: "Losing Ground in Iowa, Clinton Assails Obama." From the story: "Clinton has hammered Obama recently over his health-care proposal, arguing that he is misleading voters because it omits millions of people and would not lower costs. But Sunday, in a dramatic shift, she made it clear that her goal is to challenge Obama not just on policy but also on one of his strongest selling points: his reputation for honesty. 'There's a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we're willing to fight for,' Clinton told reporters here. She said voters in Iowa will have a choice 'between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk.'"

More Clinton: "'I have said for months that I would much rather be attacking Republicans, and attacking the problems of our country, because ultimately that's what I want to do as president. But I have been, for months, on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks. Well, now the fun part starts. We're into the last month, and we're going to start drawing the contrasts.'"

That drew a swift rebuke from Obama. "'This presidential campaign isn't about attacking people for fun, it's about solving people's problems, like ending this war and creating a universal health care system,' he said in a statement. 'Washington insiders might think throwing mud is fun, but the American people are looking for leadership that can unite this country around a common purpose.'" 

Here's how the Des Moines Register plays the Clinton promise that she'll get tougher on her primary foes: "Clinton says she'll increase criticism of Democratic rivals."

Per NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan, Obama yesterday also brushed off the Clinton campaign's attacks on his leadership PAC. Obama said those attacks were the product of political frustration since "fortunes have changed." Nothing could underscore that point more than the argument made by Clinton that Obama has also been planning a White House run ever since he entered office. While there's no doubt that with an entrance as grand as he had, his eyes may have been looking past the Senate chamber to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama has been making jokes about Clinton having "long-held ambitions" for political office for more than a month now.
He first introduced the line in a speech in Spartanburg, SC on November 3. "I am not running for this office to fulfill any long-held plans or because I believe it is somehow owed to me. I never expected to be here, and I always knew the journey would be improbable," he said. Lately, he has been tossing the line in far more frequently. When he used it at the Apollo in Harlem last week, he got a lot of laughs.

More Clinton vs. Obama… The Washington Post looks at the indecision by some black leaders in choosing between Clinton and Obama.  "For black leaders ... the Clinton-Obama rivalry represents a moment of choice for the black political establishment that grew from the civil rights movement. With the African American vote potentially critical once the primary campaign extends beyond overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire, the divided loyalties are making for a complex landscape in heavily black states such as South Carolina, which will hold its primary Jan. 26, and Georgia and Alabama, which will vote Feb. 5."

The Los Angeles Times looks at the three-way rhetorical battle over health care. "Healthcare has spurred some of the fiercest exchanges among Democrats on the campaign trail, with the Clinton campaign demanding that Obama renounce 'misleading' claims and Edwards charging that neither of his chief rivals goes far enough in their reform plans."

"Though the specifics of the healthcare proposals are complex, there are compelling reasons why Clinton has chosen to fight on this ground -- and why Obama and Edwards are fully engaged. The new focus was seized by Clinton's campaign, which has struggled in recent weeks to respond to attacks from Obama and Edwards that she lacks conviction on key issues... In this week's tussle, Clinton used healthcare as a way to turn the tables on her chief rival. Now she is presenting herself as the candidate with core convictions and bold ideas, and portraying Obama as an opponent of true reform who is being disingenuous with voters."

And is the Clinton vs. Obama split causing headaches in the Jackson family? The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports that Rep. Jackson (who has endorsed Obama) and his mother (who has endorsed Clinton) will be hitting the campaign trail for their respective candidates in the early presidential voting states.