THE NOTE: Trading Places

"At a time when two new Iowa polls show Obama actually pulling into the lead and Clinton losing support among women, some political observers are wondering if Clinton will come to regret her newly assertive strategy," Time's Jay Newton-Small writes. "She already has the highest negative ratings in the race, and the shift in tactics comes only a month before the Iowa caucus -- where voters are famous for their distaste of negative campaigning. Launching the attacks herself, rather than with via surrogates, only makes the move even riskier."

"Old friend" Robert Reich doesn't like what he sees. "I just don't get it. If there's anyone in the race whose history shows unique courage and character, it's Barack Obama. HRC's campaign, by contrast, is singularly lacking in conviction about anything," Reich blogs. "All is fair in love, war, and politics. But this series of slurs doesn't serve HRC well. It will turn off voters in Iowa, as in the rest of the country. If she's worried her polls are dropping, this is not the way to build them back up."

Her campaign surely didn't need to cite essays Obama wrote in Kindergarten and third grade to make its point that Obama has wanted to be president for a while. (Joke or no joke, that's when good oppo goes bad.)

And Clinton herself surely didn't need to reference the "fun part" of the campaign -- whatever her true meaning was -- in talking about her decision to get more aggressive on the trail.

With that line, "Hillary Clinton made what could be the biggest mistake of her campaign to date," Andrew Romano blogs for Newsweek. "Politicos recognize that 'attacking' opponents is a necessary part of the nomination process (even if voters, who typically inveigh against negativity while allowing it to color their perceptions of the candidates, don't always agree). But 'fun'? Not so much."

But Clinton is apparently very good at attacking without sounding like she's doing it.

"Notably, Mrs. Clinton's tone has not changed: The political hits were delivered Monday in a mellifluous voice and a steady smile," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times -- picking up on her efforts to become the second choice of those who favor the second tier. "Such performance skill can soften the attacks; the problem for [Howard] Dean and [Richard] Gephardt, four years ago, was that they struck some people as hotheads."

Notice that Obama didn't respond to the latest round of attacks -- where's the upside in that for him at this stage of the campaign? The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny: "Instead of responding to a suggestion Mrs. Clinton made earlier in the day that he was a 'doer, not a talker' and that his candidacy offered 'false hopes,' Mr. Obama sought to change the subject. He renewed his call for a 'Credit Card Bill of Rights,' and vowed to crack down on predatory credit card companies."

He left the response to the always-quippy Bill Burton: "Barack Obama doesn't need lectures in political courage from someone who followed George Bush to war in Iraq, gave him the benefit of the doubt on Iran . . . and opposed ethanol until she decided to run for president."

As Bill Clinton hits the trail again Tuesday in New Hampshire, we'll see (or hear) the new dynamics in place at 2 pm ET Tuesday in Iowa, during the National Public Radio debate in Des Moines.

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