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Battle for Iowa: the NPR debate

Writing up yesterday's NPR/Iowa Public Radio debate, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Democratic candidates teamed up "to blast the Bush administration over its policy toward Iran, arguing that a new intelligence assessment proves that the administration has needlessly ratcheted up military rhetoric." More: "The Democrats used the issue to criticize each other as well as President Bush. Yet their own prescriptions for dealing with Iran are similar -- and fairly close to the administration's approach of increasing diplomatic and economic pressure to force Tehran to suspend enriching uranium that can be used for making nuclear weapons."

The Washington Post also leads with Iran in its debate story.

But the New York Times' lead is on immigration. "If there is one issue that has challenged presidential candidates of both parties in Iowa this year, it is immigration, and the Democratic contenders were confronted with it again Tuesday, in a provocative way. Should American citizens, they were asked, turn in someone they know to be an illegal immigrant? In the end, the answer from most of the candidates was no. But the question, posed in various forms during a two-hour debate … had the candidates struggling anew with a topic looming large both in the Iowa caucuses next month and in the general election."

The Boston Globe: "[W]ithout the theater of a televised debate, the candidates were unusually civil yesterday, peppering their responses with such rejoinders as 'I agree with Barack' or 'as Chris said,' in reference to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Repeatedly, the rivals declared their respect for one another by name - and except for the issue of the Iran vote, largely agreed on the limited agenda NPR offered for discussion."

Salon's Shapiro gives kudos to Dodd and Biden. "When Tuesday's debate turned to foreign policy, the two veteran senators schooled Clinton and Obama."

Newsweek's Wolffe notes that just as Clinton was going on the offensive, yesterday's debate and the Iran NIE news put Clinton on the defensive.

Also in Iowa yesterday, Obama talked up electability again yesterday, adding that he didn't believe she could win a mandate even if she won the presidency. "'I believe that I can much more effectively attract new voters, and Republicans that have been disillusioned with the other side, and independents who are trying to find a political home, and potentially create a working majority for change,' Obama told Des Moines Register editors and reporters."

"'Now what we know is that that will not happen with Senator Clinton. That's guaranteed,' he added."

The New York Times fact-checks Clinton's claims that Obama's health-care plan won't cover everyone. "But while Mrs. Clinton is right that Mr. Obama's plan would leave out millions, she is being misleading in implying that her own plan covers everyone. Mandates rarely achieve 100 percent compliance. In addition, they are almost impossible to enforce. Because of those difficulties, Mrs. Clinton's own plan would probably leave out millions."

The Wall Street Journal also delves into whose health insurance plan would actually cover everyone. The article comes to no definitive conclusions, but notes, "None of the candidates want to talk about the fact that even if their plans worked out exactly as designed, none would cover all 47 million uninsured people in the U.S. That's because several million of the uninsured -- estimates put it at about seven million -- are illegal immigrants, and none of the front-runners include them in their programs."

And in the battle for New Hampshire… Clinton's campaign in the Granite State is alleging "dirty tricks" by Obama's team, so reports the Union Leader's John DiStaso. "Her national campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, charged on Monday night in an e-mail to Iowa and New Hampshire supporters that the campaign has been told by other Clinton supporters 'Obama staffers are berating Hillary supporters on the phone with negative attacks against her.' The e-mail subject was: 'The dirty tricks are starting.'"

"Obama spokesman Bill Burton, in his own e-mail to Obama supporters, called Doyle's allegations a 'flat-out falsehood' and 'the latest attack in a silly season where our opponents have promised to stop at nothing in an effort to tarnish Barack Obama's character.'"