THE NOTE: Running on Iran

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This is why Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., left the Republican National Committee (and welcome, Mike Duncan, to the world of Howard Dean).

This is the answer former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., should have given a month ago (and again, late is better than never with this candidate).

This isn't what Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was looking forward to when he announced his new outreach to religious voters (and the countdown is on to the announcement of a "scheduling conflict").

This is why the Democrats who would be president love Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (and also why they sort of hate him too).

And this is why Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's, D-N.Y., biggest foreign-policy concern is no longer Iraq. It is Iran.

Just when Clinton looked like she'd answered the critics -- just about -- on her past support for the Iraq war, last month's Iran vote emerged and appeared to blindside the ever-vigilant Clinton camp.

Now comes Obama with a mailer to Iowans, countering Clinton's latest attempt at defense. Obama links his opposition to the Iraq war to his opposition to the saber-rattling with Iran. "Barack Obama is the ONLY major candidate for president to oppose both the Iraq War from the very start and the Senate amendment that raises the risk of war with Iran," the jumbo (and colorful) postcard reads.

"While other Democrats voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, Barack Obama opposed another Bush foreign policy fiasco," it continues (omitting the fact that Obama missed the Senate vote). It quotes Obama as saying that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "could use this language to justify an attack on Iran as a part of the ongoing war in Iraq."

Obama may have finally found his opening to tie his 2002 anti-war position (the one everyone in the Democratic field wishes they had) to something tangible, forward-looking, and slightly scary to Democratic voters.

Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., share Obama's message on the Iran resolution -- making it dicier for the Clinton camp to wish away, and cutting deeply at one of her biggest weaknesses as a candidate. Biden yesterday: "The big deal here is I am afraid that some of my Democratic colleagues in voting for this resolution gave this [president] an excuse to do the last thing we should be doing now -- attacking Iran."

Obama's got the biggest megaphone, and he's turning up the volume. "The times are too serious and the stakes are too high to just be driven by ambition," he said yesterday in filing for the New Hampshire primary, per ABC's Sunlen Miller.

And Iraq is set to reemerge as a campaign issue, even amid the (relative) quiet out of Baghdad. President Bush yesterday "challenged Congress to another clash over the direction of the Iraq war" with another $46 billion funding request, "and insisted that they approve it by the end of the year," Peter Baker writes for The Washington Post. "The debate may play out just as the presidential nominating campaigns reach their climax. Although Bush wants the spending approved within two months, Democrats said the military does not need the money until early February, and they do not anticipate acting until early next year."

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