THE NOTE: Clinton Pressed on Iran, Iraq


Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani knows he looks better from the edge of town (and the rest of the field wants to make him his own worst enemy).

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton knows she's nowhere until people vote (and she gets to wait 'till next year to decide if she'd rather see the Yankees or the Cubs reach the promised land).

Former governor Mitt Romney knows you can't start a fire without a spark (and he'd love to battle Giuliani all the way home).

Sen. Barack Obama thinks he knows you win Iowa by living in the future (and not just counting on a miracle).

Former senator Fred Thompson knows no brilliant disguise will compensate for a bad debate tomorrow (and he'll need to bring more than talk about hopes and dreams).

Former senator John Edwards knows Clinton won't be coming down on her own (and he doesn't care if he's rising on water that's White or Black).

Sen. John McCain knows he's born to run as the underdog (but he's living proof that magic has its limits).

Gov. Bill Richardson thinks he knows that Democratic voters have their eyes on a prize called Iraq, Iraq, Iraq (and he may want to go missing the next time he's invited on a Sunday show).

Three months before game time, the analysis may come from Asbury Park, but the Republican fight is centering on New Hampshire, while the Democrats make it all about Iowa. And new polls confirm what the anecdotes are telling us: Clinton, D-N.Y., and Giuliani, R-N.Y., are the front-runners, but nobody's the boss this far out.

An unexpected encounter on the campaign trail in Iowa over the weekend provided a reminder to expect the unexpected, as Clinton was taken off-message on a subject she'd rather not discuss: Iran. Her vote last month in support of labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity was either a textbook centrist move -- looking past the Democratic primaries and toward the general election -- or precisely the kind of misstep that Clinton's rivals have been waiting all these months for.

Clinton was asked to defend her vote, in a testy exchange with a voter who said the resolution could authorize President Bush to use force against Iran. "I consider that part of a very robust and diplomatic effort because [it] wasn't in what you read to me -- that somebody obviously sent to you," Clinton said, per ABC's Eloise Harper. When the voter, Randall Rolph, said he was "offended" because the question was based on his own research, Clinton apologized but still argued that Rolph was misunderstanding the resolution.

Maybe it sounded familiar to her because Edwards, D-N.C., is saying it on the stump -- and he'll continue to hit the Iran message today on the trail in Iowa, according to his campaign. "I differ with her about that and I wonder, if George Bush goes to war, six months later, six months from now, are we going to hear again, 'If only I'd known then what I know now?' " Edwards said Saturday in Iowa City, per AP's Amy Lorentzen.

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