Political Capital with John Harwood

Obama, Edwards: Will They Sharpen Attacks On Clinton Tonight?

The sound of marching military cadets is not normally considered the Democratic theme song. That makes the scene here in Charleston,SC, hours before the Democratic presidential candidates debateon the campus of The Citadel, decidedly out of the ordinary.

But then there's nothing ordinary about this debate. In an attempt to link an old political format to new technology, questions will be posed to the candidates via YouTube.

The candidates chasing Hillary Clinton face a familiar decision heading into their two hour debate, however. Attack her sharply, or keep the high road?

So far, Clinton has maneuvered effectively to minimize distance between her positions and those of top rivals on key issues. On Iraq, her criticism of the Bush administration current policy has dulled the fallout from her vote to authorize the war in 2002. On an issue dear to Wall Street, she endorsed higher taxes on private equity and hedge fund managers days after John Edwardsdid.

So the question is where Edwards, Barack Obama and the others can get traction. The Edwards campaign promises to make news tonight, as it should given his slide in the polls. But many Democratic strategists are watching more closely for when, where, and how, Obama chooses to sharpen the contrast with the front-runner. Could it be tonight?

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