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The battle for Iowa

The Washington Post says that Edwards and Obama "are engaged in an increasingly pointed duel over which man is the true messenger of 'change' in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination -- with both drawing heavily from Bill Clinton's themes during his first campaign for the White House… [W]ith Clinton dominating the issue of experience, change remains the central battleground for Edwards and Obama."

National Journal's Ron Brownstein delves inside the numbers of the latest L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll in Iowa. His conclusion: "Edwards is siphoning away votes both Obama and Clinton probably hoped to attract here. Because Edwards is now stronger among men than women, he is hurting Obama (especially among college men). But because Edwards is stronger downscale than upscale, he is hurting Clinton (especially among the non-college men). All of these cross pressures have produced a race far too close to call."

On a similar note, The Los Angeles Times writes about how Obama has recalibrated his rhetoric a bit to appeal to some of the same blue-collar voters that have formed the support foundation for both Edwards and Clinton. This piece couches the Obama shift as a direct reaction to Edwards.

It looks like the Obama folks decided to nip a potential controversy in the bud. Per NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan, Obama denied that his comment about drinking tea with ambassadors had anything to do with Clinton. "I was making the same comment I've made many times -- which is that knowing a country is more than just visiting an ambassadors office," he said. When asked again if it was referring to Clinton, Obama laughed and said, "Those folks must really be on edge where they think we spend all of our time thinking about them. They need to think about the American people a little more instead of us."

His campaign has also pointed to a November event in Chariton, IA, where Obama referred to congressional delegations going to countries and doing little to understand the local people. According the AP, Obama had said, "A lot of my knowledge about foreign affairs is not what I just studied in school. It's actually having the knowledge of how ordinary people in these other countries live.' Obama contrasted that with tightly controlled congressional trips overseas. 'You get picked up at the airport by a state convoy and a security detail. They drive you over to the ambassador's house and you get lunch. Then you go take a tour of some factory or some school. Children do a native dance… It's very hard for you to make good foreign policy decisions. Foreign policy is all about judgment… It's understanding what the world looks like from the outside.'"

The Clinton campaign arranged for Madeleine Albright to defend Clinton over this tea comment. Clearly, the Obama folks realized it could be viewed as a sexist hit.