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Presidential Race: About To Hit Attack Mode?

Monday, 27 Aug 2007 | 10:48 AM ET
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
AP
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

We are creeping closer to the point of full engagement in the 2008 presidential race--but we're not there yet.

On the Democratic side, John Edwards and Barack Obama are gingerly ramping up their criticism of front-runner Hilllary Rodham Clinton.With the Iowa caucuses just four months away--and Clinton leading polls nationally and in early states alike--they need to. Yet the attacks so far most often come in suggesting that Clinton wouldn't be sufficiently zealous in bringing change to Washington--and not in outright assaults on her policy ideas.

Republicans have been even more reserved. That's not surprising giving the fluid state of the Republican field. Not only are Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney unsure of who's the real front-runner at this point--Giuliani leads nationally, Romney leads in Iowa and New Hampshire--but Fred Thompson's expected entry into the race within a few days represents an added wild card. Attacking a rival in a multi-candidate field is always risky, since that can drag down both attacker and victim while helping bystanders unstained by the mud.

But that may soon changed. Mitt Romney has hit New York for having been an illegal immigrant "sanctuary" during Giuliani's mayoralty and Giuliani's elevation of the tax-cutting issue, including in his interview with my CNBC colleague Erin Burnett over the weekend, may presage barbs for Romney in coming weeks.

Giuliani's Economic Plan
Perspectives on America's mayor and his economic plan, with Greg Valliere, Stanford Financial Group chief political strategist; CNBC's John Harwood & Erin Burnett

Look for Giuliani to hit Romney for having been insufficiently zealous in backing President Bush's tax cuts, and expressing openness toward federal gas taxes. And look for Romney in turn to smack Giuliani for exaggerating his tax-cutting record in the Big Apple, and omitting mention of his support for preserving the so-called "commuter tax" on suburbanites who work in New York.

It's all a sign that the campaign pace--already the fastest in history--is accelerating even more.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.