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Starting Gate: Double Trouble For Clinton?

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Even as Hillary Clinton's campaign continues to hum right along as the primary season rapidly approaches, a major obstacle remains – her husband.

Bill Clinton has loomed over this race from the beginning, even when another Clinton campaign was nothing more than speculation. His mere existence has been seen as both a plus and a minus for the New York Senator. The former president remains a beloved figure to many Democrats who will determine the party's next nominee. Yet there is a sense that the country may still be a bit hung over from the drama and scandals of the 1990s.

But that baggage is obvious, embedded in the nation's consciousness and compartmentalized in what feels like a more serious time. It can even work to Clinton's advantage at times, as it did yesterday when the current candidate talked once again about her marital problems. "Obviously we've had challenges as everybody in the world knows," she said. "But I never doubted that it was a marriage worth investing in even in the midst of those challenges, and I'm really happy that I made that decision." Comments like that show Clinton is no victim, just another American with problems she's had to face in her lifetime.

More problematic for Clinton's march to the White House is a question that has largely gone ignored: Is America ready for two presidents in the White House? Author Sally Bedell Smith explores that issue in her new book, "For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton, the White House Years," and raises an issue that is only likely to grow should Clinton win the Democratic nomination.

Appearing on the "Early Show" yesterday, Smith pointed out that "this is something the founders never anticipated. Not only two presidents, but two presidents married to each other. … We have a 22nd Amendment that precludes a president from serving more than two terms, and it might not be too far-fetched to say that this is a sort of end run," she added.

It's a real issue for this power couple. As Smith notes, Hillary Clinton had a real political and policy role in her husband's administration, the failed effort to reform health care being the primary example. Should we expect a former president to not have a similar, if not larger role should he return to the White House?

Presidential spouses have certainly always served as influential, if informal, advisers -- from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt to Laura Bush. President Bush has faced a similar problem in that his father is a former president. From time to time, that has caused a certain amount of tension and speculation. That would increase tenfold if two presidents actually resided under the same roof.

Political observers and pundits have urged Mitt Romney to deliver a major address about his faith as a way to assure voters, much the way John F. Kennedy did in 1960. By the time this campaign has ended, Hillary Clinton may feel the need to do something similar and give a speech telling voters what role exactly, she plans for Bill.

The Attack's In The Mail: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are taking their dispute over Iran to the mailboxes of Iowa. In a direct mail piece last week, Clinton explained why she voted for a resolution urging the Bush administration to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, saying " did so only after language which
could be interpreted as an authorization of the use of force was removed," according to the AP.

Obama's campaign responded with a mailer of its own, claiming as the candidate has done on the campaign trail, that the vote provides the administration a rationale for military action against Iran. "Why is this amendment so dangerous?," the mailer asks. "Because George Bush and Dick Cheney could use this language to justify keeping our troops in Iraq as long as they can point to a threat from Iran, and because they could use this language to justify an attack on Iran as part of the ongoing war in Iraq." As the Clinton camp has done before, a spokesman responded to the claim by saying, "If Senator Obama really thinks this is an issue of war and peace, it's odd that he didn't speak out against the measure before it passed or show up to vote against it. That's not the kind of
strength and leadership Iowans are looking for."

Democrats Betting Heavily On Iowa: The Des Moines Register has a detailed breakdown of the activity by the presidential candidates in Iowa and, not surprisingly, they find that the Democratic field has invested far more in the state. For example: John Edwards and Barack Obama each have more paid staffers than all the Republicans put together. Democrats have spent almost 100 more campaign days in the state and have run nearly 20 more TV ads in the state.

Around The Track:

  • Chris Dodd is up with a new ad in Iowa touting his record and trying to explain how he got all that white hair. Says Dodd, "Twenty-six years in the foreign relations committee? Oh yeah, that will do it."
  • A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has Clinton with a 48 percent to 17 percent lead nationally over Obama. Giuliani leads the GOP field with 32 percent with Thompson (15 percent), McCain (13 percent), Romney (11 percent) and Huckabee (7 percent) trailing.
  • Bill Richardson played up his support of gun rights in a speech to union members in Las Vegas, boasting, "I'm the only Democratic candidate (for president) who's been given an `A' rating by the NRA. … I'm a sportsman, like you."
  • The New York tabloids are having a predictable field day with Rudy Giuliani for saying he is rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. "Red Coat," screams the New York Post. "Traitor" says the New York Daily News.
  • How did Obama feel about Mitt Romney's slip of the tongue, mixing up the presidential candidate's name with Osama bin Laden's? "I don't pay too much attention to Mitt Romney," he replied.