2007-12-05 / Features

Dem Slugfest In Iowa

Each of the candidates wants a victory in Iowa, the first of many primaries, to validate his or her candidacy...
BY JOHN TOSCANO

With the Iowa caucuses, the first real test of candidates in the 2008 presidential election, just 30 days away, the leading Democratic candidates are locked in a statistical tie and have turned up the rhetoric as the contest gets closer.

The contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has led the Dem field generally for about a year, and Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards, will also get a touch of glamour on the campaign trail later this week with the arrival of television icon Oprah Winfrey to stump with Obama, whom she has endorsed.

Winfrey's appearance on the campaign trail with Obama comes at a point where he has overtaken Clinton in the polls. Hopefully Winfrey can help nail down a victory for him on January 3. Any erosion in the women's vote which Clinton is depending upon as an integral part of her election strategy, could help to put Obama over.

Each of the candidates wants a victory in Iowa, the first of many primaries, to validate his or her candidacy and to get a jump on building momentum for coming primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Clinton already has clear leads in those two states, but an indication of how badly she wants to start off with a victory in Iowa was her decision to move her campaign manager into the state over the weekend with plans for her to direct the campaign here until the caucuses.

There's also an elevated intensity in her attacks on Obama as the Iowa campaign goes into its late stages. Some polls have the race tightening up.

As an indication of the New York senator's stepped-up attacks, headlines like "Hil Lets Go At Obama", "Hill Goes On Barack Attack" and "Berating Barack" appeared over stories about her yesterday and today.

Clinton weighted in against Obama for missing votes on abortion and Iran and for backing a huge tax hike and raising the retirement age.

One such barrage brought former Bill Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich to Obama's defense. Reich said on his blog, "If there's anyone in the race whose history shows unique courage and character it's Barack Obama."

Obama, for the most part, responded through spokespersons, But in one response he made directly, he said, "Other campaigns are reading the polls and starting to get stressed and issuing a whole range of outlandish accusations."

The two leading candidates also clashed over health care, Obama lashing out at Clinton's unsuccessful plan from the early 1990s and the former First Lady criticizing Obama's plan for leaving out 15 million Americans.

Meanwhile, Edwards' plan, like Clinton's, calls for universal coverage. Also, like Clinton, Edwards called for penalties on those who would not register for health care coverage.

Edwards took another controversial position in a healthcare ad, pledging to take away health insurance from members of Congress who do not vote for universal health care by 2009.

Edwards, who was the vice presidential candidate on Senator John Kerry's ticket four years ago, won praise from the Rev. Jesse Jackson for being the only candidate in this campaign to recognize the plight of black Americans.

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