Political Capital with John Harwood

Obama's Attacks On Hillary: Last Chance For Campaign?

Barack Obama

Barack Obama has signaled that he's finally ready to step up his challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. From his point of view, it's not a minute too soon.

Thus far, Obama has been largely passive--an electric and charismatic presence on the stump, to be sure, but a candidate surprisingly loath to take the fight to a rival with formidable advantages. He told my colleagues Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times over the weekend that he's setting aside that reluctance in the campaign's home stetch with just over two months before the make or breal Iowa caucuses in early January.

Obama has displayed his new aggressiveness on Iran, slamming Clinton's vote on a get-tough Senate resolution, and on Social Security, hitting her for vagueness. That latter line of argument is tricky, since she's being vague about subjects that are politically problematic--like tax increases or benefit cuts. Unless forced to do otherwise, which appears unlikely, she can respond by inviting Obama to knock himself out with specifics.

But for Obama's supporters, the key thing isn't the nature or his specific attacks on his colleague from New York. It's the fact that he's decided to engage her more aggressively on ANYTHING--which is almost certainly the only way he can preserve any chance at all of slowing or stopping the Hillary Clinton freight train.

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