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Tongues Sharpened for Debate

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

TARGET: HILLARY

Tongues Sharpened for Debate

If the past few days were any guide, Hillary Rodham Clinton should be prepared for a long night at tonight's Democratic debate. Having been the long-distance target for the Republicans at their recent debate in Orlando, the senator from New York can expect up-close-and-personal attention from her rivals in Philadelphia.

Both Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.) have warmed up for the debate with fresh attacks on the Democratic front-runner. Obama challenged Clinton over the weekend for ducking questions about Social Security and for not making clear her intentions with regard to Iraq and Iran.

Edwards, in a speech in Manchester, N.H., yesterday, argued that Clinton is at the nexus of a corrupted relationship between lobbyists and politicians. "Senator Clinton's road to the middle class takes a major detour right through the deep canyon of corporate lobbyists and the hidden bidding of K Street in Washington, and history tells us that when that bus stops there, it is the middle class that loses," he said, according to his prepared text.

Edwards, who earlier challenged Clinton to stop taking campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists, said his rival has taken more money from lobbyists than any other candidate of either party.

Obama told the New York Times that Clinton is too politically polarizing to unite the country and vowed to sharpen his message to make clear his differences with her. "It is absolutely true that we have to make these distinctions clearer," he told the paper. "And I will not shy away from doing that."

But this is not the first time Obama has suggested he is ready to step up his criticisms of the Democratic front-runner, nor is it the first time Edwards has attacked her as a captive of the Washington establishment.

The issue now is whether they are looking to significantly escalate their rhetoric and whether it will begin to hurt Clinton. In the past two months, as both have attacked her sporadically, she has strengthened her position in national polls. Iowa, however, remains a real battleground and is likely to be the focus of new television ads from Clinton's rivals.

Tonight's debate will be held at Drexel University and will air nationally from 9 to 11 on MSNBC. NBC News anchor Brian Williams will moderate, with Tim Russert, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," joining in the questioning.

-- Dan Balz

WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GRANITE?

Romney Scores N.H. Endorsement

Do endorsements matter?

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney picked up a key vote of support yesterday that could help answer that question. He received the endorsement of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) in Concord, before he officially filed as a candidate in the New Hampshire primary.

New Hampshire is quickly becoming the key battleground for Republican candidates. With Romney far out in front in Iowa, the battle in the Granite State is shaping up to be the first real test for all the leading contenders.

Romney has been pouring money into the state and clearly hopes that Gregg's support will translate into votes on primary day (whenever that will be). But his rivals -- particularly former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) -- are not giving up the state without a fight.

Giuliani plans to spend almost the entire week in New Hampshire, and McCain's advisers have said they think the state is the one place he might be able to revive his flagging candidacy.

-- Michael D. Shear

NOT THE HOUSE HE WANTS

Tancredo Giving Up His Seat

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) has had enough. Of Congress, that is.

The five-term member of the U.S. House and long-shot presidential candidate has decided he will not run for reelection in 2008, ending his congressional career as he continues to seek the White House.

His staff confirmed the decision, which Tancredo spilled first in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News yesterday. "I really believe I have done all I can do in the House," Tancredo told the Denver paper.

Tancredo has campaigned for the GOP nomination with zeal, focusing most of his passion on illegal immigration, which he cites frequently as the biggest problem the country faces.

In debates, at campaign stops and in campaign commercials, Tancredo pushes for strict border enforcement, construction of a border fence and efforts to return illegal immigrants to their native countries.

But his hard-line views on the issue have not translated into support in the polls, where he consistently languishes at the bottom.

Nor has it earned him the support of the Republican money establishment, which has concluded that Tancredo's brand of aggressive, in-your-face confrontation about immigration is not what voters want.

Still, Tancredo has shown little desire to follow former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback out of the contest. Instead, he will abandon his House seat to devote his energies to the presidential campaign, his staff said.

-- Michael D. Shear

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