THE NOTE: Hillary Starts Playground Fight

Speaking of George Bush, the president allowed himself to play pundit-in-chief with ABC's Charlie Gibson for just long enough to say that Clinton "understands pressure better than any of the candidates" (yes, ANY) -- and to share his prediction that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination but lose to whomever the GOP puts up.

"I think she's a very formidable candidate, and one of the interesting things that she brings is that she has been under pressure. She understands the klieg lights," the president said, in a phrase he repeated twice in the interview.

"No question, there is no question that Senator Clinton understands pressure better than any of the candidates, you know, in the race because she lived in the White House and sees it first -- could see it first-hand."

The president also called Obama's vow to meet with leaders of rogue nations an "odd foreign policy" -- channeling Clinton again. (We could spend the better part of Thanksgiving -- at least the down time between football games -- unpacking the president's motivations in praising Clinton.

Clinton could surely live without the kind words, but we take it the president wouldn't agree with Mitt Romney's contention that Clinton would need to treat the presidency as an internship.)

Obama spokesman Bill Burton (having a good day): "I can't tell if he's endorsing her, hoping she's the nominee or thanking her for her votes on Iraq and Iran."

Among the Republicans, Romney, R-Mass., should be as worried as Clinton this week.

Nobody's spent more money or more time in Iowa, and what does he get for his efforts? A statistical tie with (to collect a few knocks on the sunny former governor of Arkansas) a stand-up-comic-of-a-tax-raiser-from-Hope, Ark., who barely raised $1 million last quarter.

This is the news former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., has long craved: The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll has it Romney 28, Huckabee 24 among Iowa Republicans.

"Key elements of the Republican base are coalescing around Mike Huckabee in Iowa, lifting this comparatively little-known candidate to the first rank in the first state to cast votes in the 2008 presidential contest," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes.

"The surge for Huckabee is remarkable in size and intensity alike. He's attracted not just support but enthusiastic support, from core Republican groups including conservatives, evangelicals and strong abortion opponents."

This is what Iowa's supposed to be about, right? "The affable underdog achieved all this on a shoe-string budget with little national infrastructure and close to no support from the Republican establishment," ABC's Jake Tapper writes.

Huckabee tells Tapper: "[Iowans] are folks who, you know, they auction their cattle, but not their presidential candidates. . . . This kind of poll gives more people reason to think, 'Hmm, the guy could win.' "

Romney's real concern at this point isn't winning Iowa; it's winning Iowa and not getting credit for it.

Huckabee could very easily be the story out of the Hawkeye State with a strong second-place finish. "Huckabee's rise from dark horse to contender in Iowa is one more unexpected twist in a race that has remained fluid throughout the year and adds another unpredictable element to the competition for the GOP nomination," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post. "His support in Iowa appears stronger and more enthusiastic than that of his rivals."

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