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Starting Gate: The New Campaign Front

News that the Bush administration is set to impose new sanctions on Iran is almost certain to be a major campaign focus today for a campaign that has recently been more about Iran than the war in Iraq. And Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be in her primary opponents' sights.

Barack Obama, John Edwards and others have harshly criticized Clinton for her support last month of a Senate resolution urging the administration to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. They argue that her vote only serves to provide the administration a rationale for taking military action against Iran. The new sanctions will indeed designate the military force as a profilerator of weapons of mass destruction, reports the Washington Post.

The newly-announced sanctions will also bring a renewed focus on the Republican candidates, particularly Rudy Giuliani. As we pointed out earlier this week, Giuliani's advisors include some of the most hawkish when it comes to Iran, including Norman Podhoretz, who has openly called for military strikes against Iran. While Republicans have been adamant about the need to deny Iran a nuclear weapon, they are also quick to say it is the last option. "The use of the military option against Iran would be very dangerous, and it should only be taken if every other possibility is exhausted," said Giuliani.

Thompson's Immigration Push: Fred Thompson will discuss immigration today, an issue that remains potent for many Republican primary voters. It's also one which has exposed most of the top-tier candidates to some extent. John McCain infuriated a large segment of his own party with his high-profile support for an immigration reform bill which would have allowed many illegal immigrants an eventual path toward citizenship. Rudy Giuliani has been criticized for his policies as mayor of New York City. Both he and Romney have been criticized for presiding over "sanctuary" cities and states.

It's fertile ground for Thompson, whose proposal will include a policy to take federal funds from cities which do not report illegal immigrants and will oppose any kind of amnesty for the millions of immigrants already in the United States. The plan will also call for stricter laws for employers to verify the status of those they hire and better methods to keep track of those coming in and out of the country. The Boston Globe has a preview.

Clinton Keeps Eye On Women: Clinton yesterday said that the government should step in to help working mother get more time off, partly through an expansion of the family medical leave act. Clinton noted that high-income workers typically have more flexibility for women to take time off after having children or to care for family members, something that lower-income workers don't have. "Even if it's just like one day a week, or a half a day, you get some time to be able to better manage all of these new
Responsibilities," she said. Clinton said women "want to have a chance to have a family if that's their choice and they want to be able to continue working and make a contribution to the family income as well as to their own satisfaction. I think we make it about as hard as we possibly can for young women."

Around The Track

  • Here's a must-read for campaign junkies: Giuliani was once targeted by the mob while the then-federal prosecutor was working to put organized crime figures away.
  • Responding to a questioner in New Hampshire who wanted to know how he would respond to Republican attacks, Barack Obama drew on his basketball experience: "I'm skinny. But the people I play with will tell you that I don't mind going down low and throwing elbows." Obama was also asked whether he might name Al Gore as his running mate. "I will also be honest with you: having won the Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar, being vice president again would probably be a step down for him," he replied.
  • Mitt Romney launched a new ad in South Carolina yesterday. Here's the script: "In business, you only spend what you have. In Washington, government always spends more. It shouldn't be that way. I'm Mitt Romney. I come from the business world – where turning around companies taught me how to manage budgets. That's what I did at the Olympics and as Governor. As President, I'll audit Washington – top to bottom – and cut spending. Because our next President has to be an agent of change. And as Republicans, change begins with us."
  • Romney also lost a key conservative endorsement, reports CBS News' Scott Conroy. Megachurch pastor Don Wilton, former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, retracted his endorsement of Romney on Tuesday, saying he didn't mean for it to become national news.* "It was my personal error to agree to support Romney's campaign," Wilton said in a statement. "Until this incident I had never endorsed any person running for any elected office, Democrat or Republican."

    *CORRECTION: CBS News initially incorrectly identified Dr. John Willke, founder of the National Right to Life Committee, as having retracted his endorsement of Romney. He has not. We regret the error.

  • Thompson sought to play down the departure of strategist Nelson Warfield and the defection of a New Hampshire supporter yesterday. Thompson told reporters that they'll have to talk to those nuts-and-bolts people on his campaign team saying, "I can't really address who's doing - and who was doing - exactly what at every level of this campaign. … They're the ones who know what's going on, on a daily basis. ... I'll let the experts speak on that."
  • Giuliani, on the flack he's received from his hometown press for saying he is rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series: "I think they ought to give me a break."