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


But if this battle comes down to Giuliani and Romney -- the national frontrunner vs. the early-state leader, Yankees vs. Red Sox -- Rudy has to feel good about his first head-to-head clash with the former governor. Giuiliani "seemed to get the best of the exchange," writes Mark Halperin of Time and ABC News. "As we always say, every single day he survives on top, he grows stronger and gets closer to the nomination."

Clinton was at least as much of a presence on stage last night as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., or Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and she's got to be used to the attention by now since it's coming from members of both parties.

In Iowa to outline her plan for retirement security, Clinton yesterday "pushed back against criticism from fellow Democrats that she is too polarizing to unite the country as president, arguing that the political battles she has been through make her uniquely equipped to bring the nation together and build a centrist governing coalition," The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz write.

In an interview aboard her campaign bus (news in itself), Clinton said: "You can't just wake up and say, 'Let's all just hold hands and be together.' You've got to demonstrate that you're not going to be cowed or intimidated or deterred by it, and then you can reach out and bring people who are of good faith together."

But she still has vulnerabilities on foreign policy. The Washington Post fact-checks Clinton's recent claims that she will "get us out of Iraq," and provides some fodder for her rivals: "The Democratic front-runner has gone back and forth on this question for many months, leaving voters unclear about what she would do in Iraq if she became president," Michael Dobbs writes. "It is only when you examine the details -- like the fine print in an insurance contract -- that you discover that Clinton's pledge to 'get out of Iraq' is far from iron-clad. There are numerous conditions attached."

And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd weighs in on the question that got Clinton "rattled" over the weekend, over the Iran resolution. "If you know the dingbat vice president is agitating for a conflict with Iran, if you know that Condi is chasing after Cheney with a butterfly net on Iran and Syria, if you know you can't believe anything this administration says, why vote to give them more backing on their dysfunctional Middle East policy?" Dowd writes. "Voters seem more concerned with Hillary's political expediency -- which the vote underscored -- than with her ability to be manly."

With Clinton set to open her Arkansas office tomorrow, the Republican National Committee today plans to post a video clip of Clinton talking about the importance of "openness," with a clip showing her say "everything is going to be available" at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. How are those papers from the healthcare task force coming? And how about that donor list, Mr. President?

It's just as well that Wolverines heard plenty about Clinton last night -- since she's pretty much the only Democrat still running in the Michigan primary. Five Democratic '08ers -- including Sen. Barack Obama and former senator John Edwards -- withdrew from the Michigan primary yesterday, citing the DNC's rules about the calendar. That leaves the state to Clinton, who probably had the advantage there anyway, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

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