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For Clinton and Edwards, Obama News Ups the Pressure

The news this morning that Barack Obama has decided to form a presidential exploratory committee has set the political world afire.

Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama took another step forward Tuesday toward a 2008 presidential bid. Above, Obama makes remarks Monday during a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day event in Harvey, Illinois. (AFP/Getty Images)

What does Obama's move mean for the other candidates either already in the race or likely to be in it soon? Here's The Fix's take:

For the next few days, Obama coverage will dominate the news -- leaving talk of other campaigns in the dust. The result is that we're unlikely to see Hillary Rodham Clinton or John Edwards (both of whom share with Obama seats in the top-tier of the 2008 Democratic field) trying to make any real news for the next 72 hours.

Clinton was scheduled to hold a press conference today to discuss her recent trip to Iraq, but her office postponed it shortly after the news of Obama broke. (Clinton's advisers quickly made clear that the decision to cancel the event had been made yesterday and was IN NO WAY related to Obama's announcement today, a point confirmed by Sen. Evan Bayh's office, according to the New York Times' Caucus blog.) She is set to hold the press conference tomorrow, and it's possible that Clinton will choose to use that moment to refine her position on the war -- a move that could step on the effusive press coverage of Obama.

Clinton's team insists that her timeline for announcing will not be dependent on any other candidate. But that pledge will be sorely tested between now and Feb. 10 when Obama has said he will make a final decision on the race.

Clinton has long been expected to maker her intentions clear by the end of January. Rather than forming an exploratory committee, the New York senator could well announce she is officially in the race -- drawing a subtle contrast with Obama's exploratory effort.

As for Edwards, it will be interesting to see what (if anything) he does in response to Obama's announcement. Over the weekend the former North Carolina senator attacked members of Congress for their silence on the Iraq war -- particularly Bush's plan to add 21,500 more troops. Though she was not mentioned by name, Clinton's campaign clearly viewed the speech as an attack on her and put out a statement decrying Edwards's allegedly "negative" attack.

Obama and Edwards are much closer when it comes to their positioning on Iraq, and Edwards, who spent just six years in the Senate, is not the best messenger to attack Obama on his lack of political experience. The challenge for Edwards is that he and Obama are courting the Democratic Party's liberal left, so at some point he will need to find a way to differentiate himself from Obama.

For anyone not named Clinton, Obama or Edwards, there is NO chance of getting any coverage over the next 7-10 days. Just keep your head down, withstand the Obama surge as best you can and keep to your plan.

We'll have more on Obama later on The Fix and full coverage in tomorrow's Washington Post.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 16, 2007; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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