THE NOTE: Hillary Starts Playground Fight

A switch flipped over at Camp Clinton this week (and if you don't think this had anything to do with polls and events on the ground, you don't know that camp's rules).

This cold-cock Tuesday from the smiling frontrunner, the eschewer of mudslinging, the rise-above-it-all leader: "Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face.

I think we need a president with more experience than that," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

Reaching back to childhood to attack her main rival for the Democratic nomination? That is:

A) Ceding whatever's left of the high ground Clinton occupied.

B) A rare taste of panic from a campaign that's been on heady cruise control from the start.

C) A major strategic shift from which there's no turning back.

D) Vaguely reminiscent of Stephen Colbert's attack on John Edwards for abandoning South Carolina as an infant.

Clinton has (perhaps belatedly) realized that she has a real fight on her hands.

A new poll has New Hampshire tightening just like Iowa is, and an early stumble was never part of her campaign's calculations. The campaign looks much different than it did just three weeks ago, and Clinton needs a new storyline -- and more scrutiny for her rivals.

But does mocking Sen. Barack Obama's, D-Ill., international upbringing get Clinton traction?

Surely by now Obama's supporters (including those who see him as their second choice) know that his resume is light. They favor him because he represents a new direction, the change half of the magical "change and experience" formula.

Would Clinton supporters care if they were reminded that -- around the time Obama was living in Indonesia -- their candidate was a "Goldwater Girl"?

And does she want to be reminded about those incredibly important trips she took as first lady like the one (as recounted in Carl Bernstein's book) where she and Chelsea joined Sinbad and Sheryl Crowd in post-war Bosnia?

Former governor Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, went just a hair over the top on Tuesday: "There is no question she was the face of the administration in foreign affairs." Writes The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut:

"Really? Hillary Clinton was the face of the Clinton administration in foreign affairs? More than, say, the secretary of state? Or his vice president? Or his, um, ambassador to the United Nations?"

Coupled with her line that Obama would need "on-the-job training" to handle the economy, Clinton is emphasizing her own experience -- her clearest advantage in the campaign. But New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writes that she may not want to go there: "She went on some first lady jaunts and made a good speech at a U.N. women's conference in Beijing. . . . But is living in the White House between the ages of 45 and 53 foreign policy experience?"

"At least on Tuesday, the Democratic race for president looked more like a shoving match than a civil airing of policy differences," Michael Finnegan writes in the Los Angeles Times.

And Clinton opened herself up to responses like this from Obama: "I was wondering which world leader told her that we needed to invade Iraq, because that is the conventional thinking that we're going to have to break."

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