The Note: Philly Stakes

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Clinton is trying the underdog thing out for size -- and we'll see if it fits on the debate stage. "At recent campaign appearances from Aliquippa to Scranton to Philadelphia, Clinton talks about 'fighting' for working people, jabs her opponent, and describes herself as somebody who can take a punch," Thomas Fitzgerald writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"While some see a risk of seeming too combative, Clinton seems comfortable in the scrappy role. Strategists believe that voters relate better to the woman trying so visibly to win their support than they did to the prohibitive front-runner earlier in the campaign."

Former Bill Clinton adviser Doug Schoen wants the kitchen sink -- for real this time. "As the underdog, Clinton's positive message will not work unless she is able to undermine Obama's candidacy," Schoen writes in a Washington Post op-ed.

"She needs to argue that his values are out of step with voters, as evidenced by his recent comments about why people are religious or seek to own guns. She also must argue that because of Obama's lack of legislative accomplishments, he is ill-equipped to achieve what he sets out to do."

But here's a problem: "She has lost trust among voters, a majority of whom now view her as dishonest," Anne Kornblut and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post. They include some tasty morsels of campaign infighting: "The Bosnia incident and the way the campaign handled it have left advisers divided over what a candidate can do after such a steep drop in trust."

Another problem: resources. "The two campaigns have bought at least $4.5 million of time for commercials in the closing week. According to industry sources, Obama has bought more than $3 million of time, breaking the Pennsylvania record he set last week," Larry Eichel and Amy Worden write in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Clinton has purchased at least $1.4 million, her largest buy to date in Pennsylvania."

Obama is using those dollars to take the high road -- kind of sort of. Obama's new uses footage of the jeers Clinton got Monday when she brought up the "bitter" comment at a campaign event. Says the ad: "There's a reason people are rejecting Hillary Clinton's attacks. Because the same old Washington politics won't lower the price of gas or help our struggling economy. Barack Obama will represent all Americans. He offers a new approach."

And will voters buy Obama as an elitist? "Barack Obama is talking up the fact that his single mother was once on food stamps and that he only recently paid off student loans -- part of a full-court press to avoid being painted by Hillary Clinton and Republicans as an elite liberal," Nick Timiraos and Amy Chozick write in The Wall Street Journal.

(This sort of talk can help his approval ratings -- but not if he refuses to engage altogether. "I have tried to figure out how to show restraint" to avoid harming the eventual nominee, Obama said Monday. "Sen. Clinton may not feel that she can afford to be as constrained.")

Michelle Obama is making the case, too. "Now when is the last time you've seen a president of the United States who just paid off his loan debt?" she said Tuesday in Haverford, Pa., per ABC's David Chalian. "But, then again, maybe I'm out of touch."

Michelle Obama did succeed in parrying Stephen Colbert's awkward advances Tuesday night.

Colbert: "You're a very good-looking lady. . . Do you think your husband would be OK with me having said that?" Colbert asked.

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