Obama, McCain Move to Own Iraq -- From Different Directions

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Petraeus appears to have bought the president the time he wanted, though his second day on the Hill brought "a more difficult grilling -- and far deeper sense of skepticism, especially among Republicans," per ABC's Jake Tapper and Avery Miller. It was Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who asked the simple question that drew a too-complicated answer: Is the war in Iraq making "America safer?" "Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multi-national force in Iraq," Petraeus said. It wasn't what the White House wanted to hear -- and Petraeus sought to clarify his answer later -- but it does make it easier to believe Petraeus when he said his testimony wasn't coached.

Back on the campaign trail, McCain and several of his GOP rivals can draw some hope from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Giuliani's lead has been trimmed to nine points -- the first time this cycle that his advantage has dipped below double digits, per ABC's Peyton Craighill and Gary Langer. It's Giuliani 28, Thompson 19, McCain 18, and Romney 10. (What does that last figure say about how tuned in the public is to this campaign?)

"Six years after the terrorist attacks that vaulted him to national prominence, it's unclear whether 9/11 will lift Rudy Giuliani all the way to the presidency: He remains hamstrung in the Republican base, and his overall support for his party's nomination has slipped," Craighill and Langer write. "Thompson also challenges Giuliani among conservatives and evangelical white Protestants -- base groups in the Republican constituency -- while John McCain has stabilized after a decline in support."

Giuliani's presence at Ground Zero yesterday drew a bit of a stir, and his 9/11 record continues to get scrutiny. His talk about understanding the threats posed by Islamic extremists doesn't square with his pre-9/11 time in office, Giuliani's former emergency management director, Jerry Hauer, told ABC's Cynthia McFadden.

"I don't ever remember a conversation when Rudy was mayor when he and I ever really talked about Islamic militants, Islamic fundamentalism, Islam at all," said Hauer, a Clinton supporter. "Al Qaeda was never part of his vocabulary." Countered former deputy mayor Joe Lhota: "Most Americans did not know al Qaeda existed before 9/11. Rudy Giuliani did."

A new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll in early-voting states also finds an "unsettled" GOP race, Janet Hook and Peter Wallsten write in the Los Angeles Times. Giuliani "trails Mitt Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he lags behind Fred Thompson in South Carolina." On the Democratic side, "the race is more firmly settled," Hook and Wallsten write. "While Clinton previously had established leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, she now appears to be gaining momentum in Iowa, long considered friendly territory for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards."

Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman looks inside the numbers: "Hillary Clinton is dominating the Democratic presidential field among lower-income and older voters in early primary states, while Republican Fred Thompson is making inroads among religious voters, particularly in the South and at the expense of rival Mitt Romney."

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