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Pure Horserace: A Spouse In The Spotlight

Elizabeth Edwards has been one of the strongest advocates of her husband's campaign — Democratic activists love her and she's even to the left of John Edwards on some issues. Though she's already a highly visible presence on the campaign trail, Mrs. Edwards is getting more attention than normal this week, and it doesn't look like the campaign minds.

In an interview with Salon.com posted on Tuesday, Edwards directly criticized Hillary Clinton, saying John Edwards would be a more forceful advocate for women than the former first lady. "I'm sympathetic — she wants to be commander in chief. But she's just not as vocal a women's advocate as I want to see. John is," Edwards said. "The question is, what does her campaign tell you about how she'll govern? And I'm not convinced she'd be as good an advocate for women."

Edwards also criticized Clinton's health care plan: "And then she describes some cost-saving things, which John also supports, but she acts like that's going to make healthcare affordable to everyone. And she knows it won't."

Bold words? Perhaps. But while John Edwards would risk being attacked for being sexist were he to question Clinton's credentials on women's issues, his wife is immune to such charges. Still, it wouldn't come as a shock if the campaign tried to bottle up Elizabeth for bit, at least until the small furor over her words died down. Instead, they're doing the exact opposite.

Starting today, the campaign is airing a new ad in New Hampshire featuring Elizabeth Edwards. In the commercial, she says her husband "has an unbelievable toughness, particularly about other people." She adds: "You're not going to outsmart him. He works harder than any other human being I know. Always has."

Perhaps not coincidentally, New Hampshire is Clinton's strongest state — and also where Edwards is performing worst among the four states that will hold the opening contests of the '08 campaign. A new University of New Hampshire poll shows 8 percent of likely Democratic voters backing Edwards, putting him in fourth place behind not only Clinton (33 percent) and Barack Obama (25 percent), but also Bill Richardson (10 percent).

The Edwards campaign denies that Elizabeth is launching an orchestrated attack on Clinton. "Elizabeth's not going after anybody," one of Edwards' top advisers, Jonathan Prince, said in a Wednesday conference call. "Elizabeth is out there advocating on behalf of her husband." But he added that John Edwards had "no better surrogate" than his wife and that she would "a big part" of the campaign down the road.

Elizabeth is also expected to campaign in New Hampshire for her husband, who is returning to Iowa — where he's still running strong — after his three-day tour of impoverished areas wraps up today. Does the campaign see Elizabeth as the best person to take on Clinton in her New Hampshire stronghold? They may not be willing to say it, but their actions suggest so. — David Miller

Strict Commitment But No Litmus Tests For Rudy: Rudy Giuliani has made quite the push on judges this week with an aggressive effort to calm the nerves of some social conservatives who may be nervous about his candidacy. Yesterday, Giuliani unveiled his Justice Advisory Committee, one jam-packed with very conservative legal eagles.

Former Solicitor General Ted Olson is on the team, as is Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi and former Deputy AG Larry Thompson. One of the best-known names might be Miguel Estrada, who gained a measure of fame by being one of President Bush's judicial nominees filibustered by Senate Democrats.

Giuliani coupled the announcement with some public statements on his judicial philosophy, including a widely circulated article written for the conservative Web site Pajamas Media in which he reiterated his commitment to appoint "strict constructionist judges who interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench."

Giuliani went on the write, "Some people believe judges should 'evolve' the law to reflect short-term political and cultural trends. I disagree. The individuals responsible for updating our laws are our elected representatives. Federal judges — who are appointed for life — are responsible for interpreting our laws. And the Constitution can only be amended by the American people."

The campaign is seeking to convince conservative primary voters that while the candidate himself may be in favor of abortion rights and has advocated gun control in the past, he will appoint justices who are unlikely to find such justification in the Constitution itself for such positions.

Taking that message to Iowa voters today, Giuliani said he would look to appoint Supreme Court Justices in the mold of President's Bush's choices of John Roberts and Samuel Alito — two picks that have pleased conservatives thus far on the high court. But, according to The Associated Press, Giuliani told reporters he would have no specific litmus tests. "Abortion is not a litmus test. Roe v. Wade is not a litmus test. No particular case is a litmus test. That's not the way to appoint Supreme Court justices or any judge," Giuliani said.

So, no litmus tests for Giuliani when it comes to nominating judges except, of course, that they be "strict constructionists" who are unlikely to see certain things, like abortion, as rights in the Constitution. Despite the big-name conservative legal shakers behind his effort, these social issues remain a problem for Giuliani, presenting a thicket of thorny terrain to navigate.

In the very first Republican debate, Giuliani said it would be "OK" with him if the courts upheld the Roe v. Wade decision and "OK" if it was repealed. That spurred a lot of chatter about his commitment to the issue. This week's push on judges looks to be a more sophisticated version of the same position. Vaughn Ververs

Romney's Reputation Under Fire: Republican Mitt Romney's surge to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire is unquestionably good for his presidential hopes, but by rising to the top so early, it's also left him with a big target on his back — and it looks like his opponents are now taking aim.

Taking a page from Karl Rove's playbook, two charges waged against Romney this week target two of his supposed strengths: His anchorman-like looks and his squeaky-clean family values. When the Romney campaign released its full second-quarter spending report a few days ago, it included a $300 charge for makeup applied at a California beauty salon — echoing the story of John Edwards' $400 haircuts. And like Edwards, Romney might soon see the "pretty boy" label start to stick.

Unless, of course, the "dirty" label some are trying to slap on Romney doesn't stick first. On July 5, Citizens for Community Values said Romney's criticisms of pornography are hypocritical because when Romney served on the board of directors of the Marriott hotel chain, the company allowed customers to purchase pay-per-view pornographic films from their rooms. The story has had some staying power, and on Tuesday the Nation — a liberal magazine that's no friend to Romney — detailed a more extensive campaign by religious organizations to discredit the former Massachusetts governor's stance on "family issues." Meanwhile, another group, the Family Research Council, is attempting to build support for Fred Thompson.

So-called value voters are expected to be coveted by both Romney and Thompson, especially over the next few months. If these are the opening salvos of the fight between the two, we could be in for an entertaining fall. — David Miller

Who's On The Other End Of That Line? We're all familiar with those organizational names that accompany the constant stream of polls we see these days — CBS News, Gallup, AP, etc. What you might not know is the role played by those men and women behind the scenes, the ones you've spoken to, if you've ever been polled. There's more to the science of surveying than you might think — and more research about the intricacies of the operation. Check out the latest Poll Positions column by Kathy Frankovic, director of surveys for CBS News, to get a glimpse behind the scenes.

Editor's note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.
By David Miller and Vaughn Ververs

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