THE NOTE: Dems Tangle in Mailings, Memos on Iran

"Happy birthday, Mrs. President." (Who's inevitable now?)

Happy 2-0 lead, Mr. Mayor. (Got your broom ready, Rudy?)

Happy anniversary, Mr. McCain. (Breaking out the tie-dyes?)

Happy veto bait, Mr. President. (Who's counting your votes, Madame Speaker?)

Happy nap time, Mr. Vice President. (Do undisclosed locations have pillows?)

Happy New Year, men and women of the political press corps. (And maybe Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, too.)

By Sunday, the date will be set for the Iowa Democratic caucuses -- almost certainly Jan. 3, with Democrats and Republicans using the same date. And just in time for us to book our plane tickets, we also have the growing realization that the caucuses could be the whole ballgame.

To make the math simple: If Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., wins Iowa, somebody make an argument that she won't secure the nomination. "The former first lady looks more likely to win the nomination every day, showing strength in polling, fundraising and setting the campaign agenda," AP's Nedra Pickler writes in summing up the state of the race.

"Democratic insiders, including some working on various 2008 campaigns who spoke on condition of anonymity, agree that barring a major stumble, Clinton is all but sure to win the nomination if she wins the opening contest in Iowa." Said Democratic strategist Steve McMahon: "If this were a wedding, we'd be at the 'speak now or forever hold your peace' part."

That's the backdrop for the tussle over Iran that's continuing to dominate the contest. The battle of mailings that started the week has morphed into a the battle of memos. First came Sen. Barack Obama backer (and ex-President Clinton lawyer) Greg Craig: "Senator Clinton was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Administration on this matter. Senator Obama was not."

Then came The Clinton Campaign (anyone else shudder when they read those words?), setting Obama's words against themselves and writing this: "Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once-buoyant campaign, Senator Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton gets the last (sharp) word: "All of the political explanations and contortions in the world aren't going to change the fact that, once again, Senator Clinton supported giving President Bush both the benefit of the doubt and a blank check on a critical foreign policy issue."

Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., jumped on the news of the day: "Today, the administration declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization -- the Bush administration -- Bush and Cheney, and they said they're also proliferating weapons of mass destruction," he said, per ABC's Raelyn Johnson. "So here we go again -- sounds familiar, doesn't it?"

This continues to be the issue where Obama, Edwards, and the other Democratic challengers see the most vulnerability in the party frontrunner. It may not matter. But every step the Bush administration takes toward confrontation with the Iranians is likely to reignite the battle over the vote that Clinton would probably secretly like to have back.

"The Kyl-Lieberman split between Obama and Clinton is escalating in importance to the campaigns as Obama is trying to sharpen differences between himself and the New York senator," Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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