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Clinton Scores a General's Endorsement (No, Not THAT General)

In the midst of what promises to be an extended back and forth between Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) over the war in Iraq, the Democratic frontrunner rolled out an endorsement from retired General and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark today.

"She will be a great leader for the United States of America and a great commander in chief for the men and women in uniform," Clark said of Clinton, according to the Associated Press's Beth Fouhy.

(Clark also penned an editorial on lessons learned from the Iraq war for Saturday's Washington Post.)

Sen. Clinton heaped praise on Clark, a longtime political ally and an Arkansan who served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander under President Bill Clinton.

"I am deeply admiring of General Clark's record of leadership for our country and his appreciation of the complexity of the world in which we live today," she said. "I'm looking forward to his involvement in my campaign and working together to bring the change this country needs."

Though not unexpected, the Clark endorsement comes at a crucial time for Clinton in her fight for the Democratic nomination. As we wrote earlier this week, Clinton has effectively moved left on the war, employing a concerted strategy to use her position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to press the Bush Administration and to assert she is the lone presidential candidate with the requisite experience to extricate America from Iraq safely.

In the week leading up to Saturday's endorsement by Clark, Clinton was involved in a rhetorical debate on Iraq, sparked by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" newspaper ad.

In newspaper and Web ads of his own, Giuliani has sought to connect Clinton to the original MoveOn ad and has accused her of inconsistency in her stance on the war and disrespect toward Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. (Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has also joined the fray, declaring that MoveOn should be "thrown out of the country.")

On Saturday Clinton reiterated her position on Petraeus. "I have repeatedly not only expressed my strong admiration and support for our men and women in uniform but with respect to General Petraeus, I have also made my respect for him abundantly clear and I think that speaks for itself," Clinton said.

The fight between Clinton and Giuliani over MoveOn represents a win-win for both camps.

By attacking Clinton, MoveOn.org and the New York Times, Giuliani is hitting three of the most high profile bogeymen for Republicans in one fell swoop. He's also seeking to start the general election before a single vote is cast, playing on the idea prevalent among GOPers that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and they need to put together a defeat-Clinton gameplan as early as possible.

For Clinton, attacks by Giuliani and other Republicans on either her rejection of the Petraeus report or her unwillingness to disavow MoveOn's tactics help assure liberals that she is one of them on the issue. And as her aides will surely argue: Why would Republicans attack her if they didn't view her as the strongest potential general election candidate?

Win-win scenarios are rare in politics and can change quickly and without warning. We doubt this fight is over just yet.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 15, 2007; 2:19 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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