Hillary Clinton: The Teflon Candidate?

It's getting a little more rough and tumble among the Democrats who want to be president, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod

"I heard Sen. Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions on Iraq. To me that's a continuation of the war," Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said at the Democratic debate in New Hampshire Wednesday night.

Hillary Clinton's rivals see her turning a steady-as-she-goes campaign performance into solid front-runner status and they're sharpening their attacks.

Barack Obama reached back 13 years to her unyielding approach during her health care failure of 1994.

"If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process," he said.

But so far, no one's laid a glove on her. During the latest debate, she said "no" when asked by moderator Tim Russert if torture was acceptable to break up a terror plot, as another politician suggested to him.

"The guest who laid out this scenario for me, with that proposed solution, was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you," Russert said.

"Well, he is not standing here right now," she responded to applause.

Clinton's 2002 vote for the war, the health care debacle and ties to a corrupt fundraiser -- something was supposed to stick. So far, nothing has.

"Don't people think there's so much negative attached to this woman?" asks Axelrod.

"You might think there's more negative because she's in the public eye for a lot more years. All these other guys, all of a sudden they're popping up from here and there. She's been there through thick and thin with Bill," says New Hampshire voter Debbie Fields.

The war and health care are both potential minefields for her, and she's slipped both punches, says Democratic consultant Anita Dunn.

"It's a very risky proposition to be the person who goes and really starts defining differences in a negative fashion and that's because, generally there's a third candidate who ends up being the beneficiary of those fights - you can ask Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt who wins those fights, and the answer is John Kerry," Dunn said.

Nothing points up this Teflon quality of Clinton more than the war. She took a lot of hits from the left when she wouldn't apologize for her vote to go to war. But in the most recent national polls, when asked which Democrat Americans trusted most on Iraq, the answer was Hillary Clinton.