THE NOTE: Rudy, Mitt Rumble on Fred's Night

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"While Clinton is now all-but-ensured of coming out on top when Michigan votes on Jan. 15, her rivals are hoping that any media impact will be negligible since she will have prevailed in this delegate-free beauty contest against no real opposition," ABC's David Chalian and Teddy Davis write.

Obama, D-Ill., is citing party rules (as are Edwards and the rest of the gang), but would he have pulled out if he thinks he could have won (like Clinton thinks she can) without setting foot in the state? Is this Obama waving a white flag in a state with big urban centers and a large African-American population? "Tuesday's move means not only will the [Democrats] not make their pitch directly to Michigan, but the state's voters will not even have a chance to vote for many of them," writes Gordon Trowbridge of the Detroit News. Says Detroit resident Anthony Thornton: Obama "can't win the Democratic nomination if he can't win here."

Obama joined other Democrats yesterday in condemning Congress for its failure to pass a bill that would raise taxes on private-equity firm executives. "But he can look no further than his own campaign team for one of the culprits," the New York Sun's Russell Berman writes. Obama "recently hired a top executive at the lobbying firm retained by the Blackstone Group to urge lawmakers against raising its taxes. The executive, Moses Mercado, is not yet on the campaign payroll as an adviser, but he took a leave from his job as a senior vice president at Ogilvy Government Relations late last month."

Michelle Obama was uninjured in a car accident yesterday in Iowa, while she was campaigning for her husband, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports.

Clinton's "Middle Class Express" trip through Iowa is getting positive press coverage. Yesterday, she outlined a plan to match individual personal retirement accounts with as much as $1,000 per person per year. "I think we can't afford not to invest in the American people," she said, per the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs.

But the trip has really been about establishing an organization, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reports. "The primary focus at 10 stops this week in Iowa was not on stagecraft or even the very famous candidate on stage," she writes. "It was to get commitments from potential caucus-goers -- or at the very least the names, cell phone numbers and interest level of every man, woman and (voting-age) child who came to listen but will now likely be contacted repeatedly through January."

Speaking of voting age, The Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Holmes has details of Obama's efforts to reach out to 17-year-olds, who will be able to participate in the January caucuses even if they're not 18 "because of a quirk in Iowa election law." The campaign is hosting "BarackStar" nights for teens, and "is also actively cultivating teachers, along with high-school principals, using them for entree to the youngest voters."

Edwards, D-N.C., is in Iowa as well, and he's not pursuing a TV strategy -- "as much for effect as necessity," Christine Hauser writes in The New York Times. (Though "necessity" might edge out "effect," no?) Says Edwards, of Clinton and Obama: "They have spent millions of dollars on television advertising. It is a little more difficult to figure out what is going on with me, because I haven't spent any money on television advertising."

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