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Starting Gate: A Win-Win For Clinton?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
It's official – Hillary Clinton is dominating the presidential campaign. In both parties. Oh, sure, the Republican candidates took time in last night's debate to highlight the differences among them, but only as a way to argue over which of them is best suited to take on the Democratic frontrunner in the general election.

Long a favorite target of Republicans, Clinton has come under fire of late from competitors in her own party as well. Barack Obama, John Edwards and others seeking to knock her off stride argue that their party can't afford to return to the politics of the 1990s, that Clinton is not representative of the kind of change voters are looking for in this high-stakes election and that her record is one of political convenience over principle. Most of all, they say, Hillary Clinton is too polarizing to be elected.

Her stature and history is something that Clinton has managed to turn to into a positive on the stump and all the attention is playing right into her hands. Campaigning in Iowa over the weekend, Clinton subtly made the point. "There's been a lot of cumulated attacks on me going back 15 years," she said. "And what I've done on this campaign is to get out and have people form their own opinions of me and slowly, but surely, I think, sort of reverse some of the unfounded feelings people had about me." It's a less-than-subtle reminder that, despite years spent as a political lightening rod, the Clintons win elections.

And, becoming the focus of the GOP primary battle only serves to help Clinton's seeming inevitability. Republican candidates are clearly counting on Clinton to do something they have been unable to do – unite and excite their party's base. But there's little evidence it's working. Clinton has been the presumptive front-runner more or less since the race began last winter and yet GOP enthusiasm remains low by all indications. While Clinton, Obama and others amass huge war chests, Republican candidates are struggling to open the wallets of formerly generous givers.

The betting among some is that once the Republican nominee emerges, the party will unite in opposition to Clinton. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But for the moment, the focus on her candidacy is only helping to make her nomination seem all the more preordained.

Biden Nabs Iowa Endorsement: Joe Biden has secured the first newspaper endorsement of the campaign. The Storm Lake Times on Saturday editorialized: "We have seen all the Democratic presidential candidates, except for two, up close and personal: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson. Biden is our choice for the nomination for the powerful personal story he shares, for his deep knowledge of international affairs, and for his long record of exemplary service in the United States Senate." Newspaper endorsements are of dubious value in most elections, but Biden continues to show signs of improvement in Iowa.

Richardson Up With New Ad: CBS News' Joy Lin reports: The Richardson campaign is rolling out a new 60-second TV ad today which aims to highlight Richardson's experience as a diplomat.

In it, Bill Barloon and David Daliberti recount how then-congressman Richardson negotiated with Saddam Hussein to bring them home after being imprisoned in Iraq.

The two had been working in Kuwait in 1995 and ended up in Iraqi custody after mistakenly crossing the border. They were sentenced to eight years in prison and spent four months in jail before Richardson negotiated their return.

Entitled "Only One, the commercial also includes Daliberti's wife, Kathy, who says Richardson was the "only one" willing to "leave his family, his wife behind, travel to a dangerous section of the world, for two men he didn't even know."

Richardson would later become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He has received four Nobel Peace prize nominations for his negotiation skills.

By the way, Barloon is a native of Iowa, where the ad begins airing today. It will also run in New Hampshire

Around The Track

  • Clinton may be target number one for Republicans, but is Giuliani far behind in that category?
  • Obama is up with a new ad in New Hampshire.
  • Chris Dodd is moving to Iowa -- he's rented a house for the duration of the campaign.
  • Republican Bobby Jindal claimed a victory in the Louisiana Governor's race this weekend, winning 54 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff.
  • The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party says his party won't move their primary again. New Hampshire remains undecided on its date.
  • Where is Howard Dean?