THE NOTE: Rudy Set for Conservative Slam

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Obama is trying to make those things change -- approximately yesterday. Keying off of President Bush's "World War III" comment, he again blasted Clinton for voting for last month's Iran resolution. "When I am the nominee . . . my opponent won't be able to say that I am being inconsistent for flip-flopping," ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. His opponent "won't be able to say that I agree with using the war in Iraq to justify military action with a war in Iran."

And things could get sharper in the days ahead. Obama is beefing up his war room: John Del Cecato will head up his new "rapid response effort," Jeff Zeleny reports in The New York Times. According to an internal campaign memo sent to staff members, the post is being created "to help push back on attacks from the media and our friends in the rival campaigns."

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman sums up the maneuverings: "The leading Democratic presidential contenders are sharpening their strategies, realigning staff, and refining their messages as they position themselves to emerge as the party's nominee," he writes. This piece of (very wishful) thinking from Edwards adviser Joe Trippi: "We have to make our case that the choice in this race is not between Clinton and Obama, it's between Clinton and Edwards, and make that choice very clear."

With apologies to the good Mr. Trippi, here's a comparison that Obama will take any day: "Proposal by proposal, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are constructing policy agendas that present their party with mirror-image choices," Ron Brownstein writes in the Los Angeles Times. "On domestic policy, Obama has shown a much greater willingness than Clinton to challenge liberal orthodoxy and the powerful Democratic interest groups that defend it. On national security, though, Clinton has pushed against the party's left-of-center consensus while Obama has embraced it. One candidate offers conformity at home and apostasy abroad; the other, the opposite."

Back on the congressional front, the big S-CHIP vote came and went as expected -- except one particular sound bite that wasn't exactly what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had in mind. (Let's guess that Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., won't be tapped for the Democratic radio address any time soon.)

Stark created a stir -- and woke up the GOP "rapid response efforts" -- with this remark on the House floor: "You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."

It was another distraction in a rough week for Democratic congressional leadership, coming on top of the "genocide" resolution that now appears firmly shelved. Democrats may see some political up-side in having the president discover fiscal conservatism on healthcare for poor children, but the GOP base held for at least one more day.

"Despite a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign and intense lobbying by children's advocates, supporters of the bill were unable to convert a single House Republican who voted against the bill last month," Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report in The New York Times. "For now, the insurance vote stands as the latest example of how Mr. Bush can still get his way on Capitol Hill."

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