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Dan Balz's Take

Spoiling for a Fight


Will Clinton turn up the heat--as her new campaign signs promise--at tonight's debate? (AP).

Barack Obama was the story heading into the Democratic debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Would he take on Hillary Clinton or not? Coming out of the debate, the spotlight was on Hillary Clinton and her poor performance.

As Democrats prepare for Thursday night's debate in Las Vegas, the focus is still on Clinton. Can she recover and prove what happened in Philadelphia was an aberration -- or might there truly be a contest for the Democratic nomination once the curtain falls in Nevada?

Clinton's rough ride continued Wednesday when the campaigns of Obama, Chris Dodd and John Edwards attacked her for her latest statement on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer abandoned his plan to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, Clinton -- who had earlier said she supported Spitzer's efforts to deal with the problem -- said as president that she would not supporting giving licenses to illegals.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton took a double shot at the Democratic frontrunner over that statement. "When it takes two weeks and six different positions to answer one question on immigration, it's easier to understand why the Clinton campaign would rather plant their questions than answer them," he said, rolling the immigrant controversy into an ongoing flap in Iowa.

Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan called the latest statement "flip-flopping cubed," while the Edwards campaign said simply, "We're dizzy."

Even Clinton has conceded that her Philadelphia debate performance was sub par, but rival strategists argue that it continued on a pattern of less-than-impressive debates over the past few months -- after delivering a succession of strong performances in early debates that helped establish her as a dominant front-runner for the nomination.

Joe Trippi, senior adviser in the Edwards campaign, said Wednesday that Clinton began to stumble at the YearlyKos debate last August in Chicago, when she refused Edwards's challenge to pledge not to take money from registered Washington lobbyists and even defended lobbyists in her answer.

At the Dartmouth debate in September, Clinton came under attack from Edwards for supporting a resolution on Iran that most of her rivals opposed. She also ran into turbulence over her position on Social Security, and some of the post-debate commentary challenged her for being evasive.

The result, in Trippi's estimation, is a different campaign than it was a month ago. "The landscape has totally changed since the last time," he said. "She entered the last one [debate] sort of the invincible, insurmountable, inevitable nominee and in the course of two or three weeks, she's a mere mortal. So in that point of view the terrain has changed."

Edwards believes he has set the pace in challenging Clinton and Trippi said that will continue in Las Vegas and beyond. "We're going to keep doing what we've been doing. We're going to make clear the clearest differences in the race is between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards -- her status quo and our populist campaign for change."

But Edwards has competition on that front from Obama, who arrives at the debate after an impressive speech at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner last Saturday and several good days of campaigning there, in which he appeared to gained confidence as a candidate. His campaign is trying to capitalize on this financially and politically.

Obama and Edwards offer contrasting styles but they are allies in attempting to force Clinton into a real debate and thereby overtake her in Iowa and nationally. All the campaigns believe there is a tight race in Iowa and some polls elsewhere have shown Clinton's once-overwhelming lead shrinking a bit in the past couple of weeks.

Clinton's campaign appears ready for a rough night in Las Vegas. Asked what she expected, a senior campaign official said early Thursday, "Heavy attacks. I think both Obama and Edwards are coming loaded for bear." Asked whether she is ready to fire back, the official emailed not-so-cryptically, "Stay tuned."

The Clinton campaign has never shrunk from confrontation with her rivals and there's every reason to expect that she will approach this debate differently than she did the forum in Philadelphia. Preparation is her hallmark as a public official, and hardball politics the M.O. of her operation.

Clinton doubtless have plenty of material to undercut anyone who challengers her. But Clinton's double challenge is to counter attacks without appearing angry or defensive.

At this stage of the campaign, every debate becomes a potentially significant moment in the campaign. Until now, Clinton has attempted to stay above the fray, focusing her attacks on President Bush and the Republicans rather than her Democratic rivals. She may not have that luxury in Las Vegas.

On Saturday in Des Moines, the front-runner unveiled a new slogan -- "turn up the heat" -- and used it to exhort the Democratic audience to challenge Bush and the Republicans. But it may have been a warning to her Democratic rivals. Will tonight provide the occasion for her to turn up the heat on Obama and Edwards? And if she does, will the Democratic race look different on Friday than it does today?

--Dan Balz

Posted at 2:20 PM ET on Nov 15, 2007  | Category:  Dan Balz's Take
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The difference between the two can be summed up as follows:
Hillary: Turn up the heat!
Obama: More light, less heat

I support Obama.

Posted by: TomJx | November 20, 2007 8:15 PM

Poll:

Seven Democratic presidential hopefuls went head-to-head on the issues Thursday night, with the biggest pressure likely on front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Who do you think won the CNN News Las Vegas Democratic Debate at the University of Nevada?

----------> http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=996

.

Posted by: PollM | November 15, 2007 10:34 PM

Question for all please: Why isn't Joe Biden getting more traction? He seems completely electable to me. Great foreign policy background, pragmatic on domestic policy, track record of bipartisan success...help me understand why he is not doing better than low single digit.

Thanks

Posted by: calbob1 | November 15, 2007 7:48 PM

Mrs. Bill Clinton hasn't explained why she gave up on healthcare

Posted by: im_timmaaay | November 15, 2007 7:47 PM

Hillary is head above her fellow partisan. The whole point is to attack the current administration and the whole bunch of Republican contenders (except for Representative Paul) who support Bush and, incredibly, try to out-Bush each other in terms of both foreign and domestic policies.

This is a time to quite the traditional gender bias, this is a time to move ahead to make sure that finally the United States does what a good number of democracies have done before: elect a female president to change course.
For more on this, see: reflectivepundit.com

Posted by: bn1123 | November 15, 2007 7:27 PM

Ah, yes, Barack Obama was the story heading into the debate because you and the rest of the media were dead set to assure a competitive race. I do like Obama but not this time around because of his very limited experience. The news media should stop trying to get male Democrats to join forces with media anchors/moderators to take down Senator Clinton. Ir's the electorate, stupid, that should decide--not the Blitzers and Williamses and the Russerts of this world.
See more, reflectivepundit.com

Posted by: bn1123 | November 15, 2007 7:02 PM

Will everyone please stop whining. Hillary is inevitable because she is the best candidate out there, among Democrats and Republicans.

She is smarter by far, more honest, nuanced, and most importantly for a leader, realistic. Since when did PRAGMATISM become a dirty word in this country? Her very pragmatic husband was a wondeful president and most of the voting public thought so, so much so that they elected him twice handily (not by slim margins) and would have elected him a third time.

Get real and count your blessings you nay-sayers. We should be so lucky to have her lead us.

Go Hillary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: feliciaczin | November 15, 2007 6:49 PM

The Dems should make sure they nominate the person most likely to become elected. The Republicans have had 16 years now to hone their attacks on the Clintons. From what I've seen the attacks are as irrational and irrelevant as can be, though there are plenty of Republican voters on board. The nation needs the entire infrastructure of the executive branch overhauled yesterday, and the Dems cannot afford to lose this election.

Posted by: glenbc | November 15, 2007 6:44 PM

Hillary is still the favorite candidate of the Republicans, for they believe she would be easier to beat. She should stop attacking Bush, and start campaigning against her opponents. Bush isn't running for office.

Posted by: dunnhaupt | November 15, 2007 6:35 PM

What I found amusing is Democrats are deseprately trying to tear Hillary down, while Republicans are deseprately trying to find the best candidate to beat her, thus Macain rebounce. Check the latest Fox News poll. It's all about Hillary. Politics, very entertaining.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/national-primary.html

Posted by: kjlover46 | November 15, 2007 5:56 PM

Those who support Obama to be the next president are falling right into the trap of the GOP's conspiracy. This country is not yet ready for a black president . Devide and rule is the oldest trick in the book by the Republicans.Their only chance to win is to have the Dem to nominate OBama.I just don't understand why the Dem can not see it.

Posted by: johnycheng1 | November 15, 2007 5:53 PM

Those who support Obama to be the next president are falling right into the trap of the GOP's conspiracy. This country is not yet ready for a black president . Devide and rule is the oldest trick in the book by the Republicans.Their only chance to win is to have the Dem to nominate OBama.I just don't understand why the Dem can not see it.

Posted by: johnycheng1 | November 15, 2007 5:52 PM

Edwards need to welcome the Queen to the Smackdown tonight.

He should bring a list of her 10 top lies, inconsistent positions with citations.

"Ms. Clinton I have 10 documented inconsistent positions you have taken, and chapter and verse citations. Can you explain even 1?"

"I brought extra copies if you want one, but I do not want to invade your space (smirky smile)...."

Posted by: JaxMax | November 15, 2007 5:31 PM

go hillary!!!!!!!!!!!

rethugs and larry craig wannabees: beware. what you see tonight will only the tip of the iceberg

Posted by: pinechee | November 15, 2007 5:28 PM

messykat - CNN at 8pm

Posted by: pinechee | November 15, 2007 5:25 PM

JOhn Edwards wears Gucci loafers and gets four hundred dollar haircuts, but he's too tacky to be President. This is why he can't poll above 13 in national polls. The electorate, for the most part, do not like this man, let alone trust him.

Posted by: audart | November 15, 2007 5:24 PM

Why do these articles never mention when the debate is and on what channel? If it's in there, it's too buried. It should be prominently featured.

Posted by: messykat | November 15, 2007 5:15 PM

This article is so biased against Hillary Clinton that I am stunned. Readers might want to reorient themselves to reality by checking out this analysis of Clinton's current standing with the American people in Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/home/business/2007/11/14/clinton-president-democrats-cx-1115oxford.html

Posted by: ichief | November 15, 2007 5:06 PM

With over 70% of women polling for Hillary, not because of who she is, but what she is (a woman), in this case it's safe to say Harry Belafonte was wrong - the women are NOT smarter!

Posted by: kargovroom | November 15, 2007 4:31 PM

So if Hillary attacks Obama and Edwards, will Richardson rush to their defense?

Posted by: srobinson2 | November 15, 2007 4:27 PM

How strange it is that when Hillary gets body slammed by her opponents of the Democrat nomination race, they begin to compare her to King George.

Reason: It is a manipulation. She doesn't meassure up to the Democrat candidates.

((PERIOD))

Posted by: im_timmaaay | November 15, 2007 4:07 PM

Better to call a spade a spade than to keep up the charade.
http://unitedagainsthillary.wordpress.com

Posted by: sunwolf78 | November 15, 2007 4:07 PM

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the leading advocate for freedom in our nation's capital. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dr. Paul tirelessly works for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies. He is known among his congressional colleagues and his constituents for his consistent voting record. Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution.

Border Security and Immigration Reform

The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked.

This is my six point plan:

Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.

Enforce visa rules. Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law. This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.

No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That's a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.

No welfare for illegal aliens. Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules. But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.

End birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong.

Pass true immigration reform. The current system is incoherent and unfair. But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation.

This is insanity.

Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.

http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/border-security-and-immigration-reform/

http://www.ronpaul2008.com/

Tea Party 07 - Ron Paul Mass Donation Day. ... On December 16th, 1773, American colonists dumped tea into the Boston Harbor to protest an oppressive tax. ...

http://www.teaparty07.com

**** Join us online December 16th ****

Posted by: US-Citizen | November 15, 2007 4:07 PM

If you can't argue with facts, repeat, repeat, repeat the big lie as above. There's plenty of ammo to fire back if Clinton starts on the others. Her experience dates from being New York Senator period. Before that she has the practice of law, a failed health insurance program, more scandals between the two Clinton's than we can count and all the old baggage too lengthly to go into here.

The "won't vote for Clinton" mass is not because of her gender or even some of the few positions we can figure out, it is because of her past and present history of evasions, flipflops, "too cute by half" responses and a general reluctance to take questions from the audience at her appearances and, above all, tell the truth.

The rest of the field has a chance this evening to debunk the "inevitable" mantra cast by the media and her campaign by speaking the truth and "outing" her when she fibs and flip flops. While they're add it, they can ask just how much Mark Penn's firm was paid by Blackwater to be a consultant? The list goes on and on and one.

America needs a President who can unite us and that certainly is either Clinton. Also, maybe we can figure out who indeed is running.

Posted by: NoMugwump | November 15, 2007 3:51 PM

Hard to believe such a smart lady would let herself get sucked into such a situation, unless...
Is Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton playing the "Under Dog" role?
---------> http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=991


.

Posted by: PollM | November 15, 2007 3:50 PM

If you want to understand the essential phoniness of the press attempts to boost Obama at the expense of Clinton and create the appearance of a horse race consider this. For the past week the press has been alive with expressions of respect for the Giuliani master strategy which apparently means he can lose the first four, yes the first four, primaries and yet can still win the nomination by picking up all the other states where he has massive leads. Conversely, Clinton who has similar massive leads in every state except IA, and NH if you don't think 15% is a big lead, is doomed if she loses IA or NH. Am I alone in believing the press is being disingenuous here. In fact in the democratic field she is the only candidate who could lose IA and it makes absolutely no difference. If Edwards or Obama lose they are done. Even narrow victories would probably constitute a loss. This is the unique strategic advantage she possesses which seems to have eluded all the pundits who are paid huge salaries to pontificate about this stuff. Some know it of course but it would spoil a good story.

Posted by: johnbsmrk | November 15, 2007 3:47 PM

Dan Balz, the authors of this biased article, is just another of the many men that are attacking our beloved Hilary just because she is a woman - God's preferred sex.

Stop it you meanies.

So what if she is double-talking and two-faced and has a platform that consists of: Show-Me-The-Money, Say-Whatever-They-Want-To-Hear, Continue-The-Neocon-Wars, Sell-The-Lincoln-Bedroom, and I-Want-A-New-Pair-Of-Hsu's. So what if there are no depths of depravity to which this moneywhor'e won't go, including staging questions at public events. So what if she is Bush-Lite on the neocon wars and many other critical issues. So what is she is an advocate for the most un-American piece of legislation ever enacted, the so-called "Patriot" Act, which shows clearly that she will be as lawless, secretive and anti Bill of Rights as DickNBush.

She is woman - let her roar!

HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT - HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT -HILLARY IS INEVITABLE - DON'T FIGHT IT

Posted by: ImpeachNOW | November 15, 2007 3:36 PM

I used to really like Edwards, but over the past few months he has become such a shrill b-i-tch I just can't stand listening to him anymore -- it shows the kind of man he becomes when engaging with others he disagrees with and wants to persuade others to agree with him. How can someone with these behavioral tendencies be successful negotiating on domestic issues or cultivating important diplomatic relationships?

Posted by: markwdc | November 15, 2007 3:33 PM

Hillary has clearly shown that she is not a friend of the middle class or the poor which make up the base of her own Party.

Hillary has strongly indicated that, as president, she would continue the policies of her husband.

But Bill was a clear enemy of the above Base. As President, he allied himself with the GOP to help, big time, to advance their agenda of advancing the interests of the wealthy elite at the expense of the poor & Middle Class. He stood with the GOP to pass so-called "Welfare Reform," & to tighten eligibility requirements for social programs like Food Stamps & Medicaid, (actions which have proven to be very harmful toward the well-being of the poor.) He stood with them to pass international trade policies like NAFTA & GATT, (which have proven to very harmful to the nation's Middle Class & have added to the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.) And he stood with the GOP to increase the Social Security Tax on the Middle Class & the poor while continuing to raid the Social Security Trust Fund (as other presidents have done since Reagan,) for general revenue purposes. All this while holding the line on taxes on the wealthy.

As was the case with her husband, by way of her Senate record & her campaign rhetoric, Hillary has shown that she will continue her husband's policies of allying herself with the GOP & will, at best, ignore the needs of the Democratic Base, & at worse, will, like Bill, work against their welfare.

While Hillary is a slight asset to Democrats while serving in the Senate, Democrats can do much better than Hillary as their nominee for President.

Posted by: book134 | November 15, 2007 3:31 PM

Agreeing with what you are saying, but you know, whether Hillary triangulates, postulates or pontificates, there were 50% of the country that wasn't going to vote for her, regardless of whether or not she captured the pulse of the country on every issue - period! (see above, rat, the) It just wouldn't matter. Hillary entered our public life during the hey-day of "gotcha" media, and was pilloried as a "femi-nazi" by Rush and the ditto heads, and those folks are never, never, never, never, never going to vote for Ms. Clinton, even if she promised to round up all illegals, put a BMW SUV in every garage, and completely repeal the capital gains tax...it just wouldn't matter to a certain segment of our society.

That's why she's the wrong candidate for the Dems, regardless of her positions.

Posted by: johndinhouston | November 15, 2007 3:31 PM

Hillary is sniffing her nose in trouble and her support is going to weaken as Obama makes a surge in the polls.

Hillary has such a reputation that is longer than any children's Christmas list or Pinocchio's nose. Obama is clear and actually has ground, while Hillary's only direction is sailing in the wind back and forth any direction and she is not likable to say the least.

Barack has the likeability and the personality while Hillary has her rod and whip (just ask Bill). Barack has determination, skill, and the momentum that the Democratic Party needs. If he loses the primaries, you can say, bye, bye.

Just ask the nation, a recent poll said that 50% of American's would not vote for Mrs. Clinton. So why even rewind to the most polarizing candidate and choose a very, very, oblate person? Barack has the personality, and at least he is not like a washer that goes both ways on issues. As for the republican's any of the leading candidates would beat Hillary. She is not destined for the White House she already had her eight years as president.

Posted by: JoshuaUdell | November 15, 2007 3:22 PM

Bill and Hill have their stance on the Driver's License Thingy well in hand! There was no Flip or even a Flop.

Lawyers know full well how to manipulate those little thingys.

Legalize 20,000,000 invading Criminals(Next time it will only be 400,000,000), and SHAZAM! Instantly Fixed!


Meanwhile, as Mitt Romney's Bus is rolling on to the Presidency of this country(As opposed to Mexico), there is a strange noise-

Whump!


WHUMP!

Big one must have been Slick!

Posted by: rat-the | November 15, 2007 3:16 PM

I'd like to see someone ask the Senator to compare her campaign rhetoric to 'turn up the heat' - whether on Repubs or her Dem opponents - with her husband's advice to build coalitions rather than demonizing the opposition. I'm not trying to be snarky when I suggest that perhaps Bill should support Obama rather than his wife.

Posted by: bsimon | November 15, 2007 3:00 PM

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