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Clinton makes 'change' message work for her

December 13, 2007 | 12:58 pm

It was subtle. But in a debate format that prevented the candidates from skirmishing directly with each other, Hillary Clinton managed to tersely offer herself as the Democrat best able to effect change -- and scoff at the competing credentials of her two main rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

With the race in Iowa too close to call -- and with Clinton recognizing that the messages of change from Edwards and Obama have resonated among the state's Democrats -- her campaign increasingly has sought to tout her credentials on that front (de-emphasizing the experience angle). And the candidate herself focused on a "change" message in the debate where she was allowed to make an abbreviated campaign statement.

Insisting that "everyone" she's met in Iowa wants change, she said: "Well, everybody on this stage has an idea about how to get change. Some believe you get change by demanding it. Some believe you get it by hoping for it. I believe you get it by working hard for change. That's what I've done my entire life. That's what I will do as president."

The reference to those "demanding" change clearly was to Edwards, who among the party's frontrunners has been the most assertive in attacking the powers that be (a position he hewed to during the forum).

The reference to those "hoping" for change, even more obviously, was to Obama, who from the start has run under the banner of "the politics of hope."

Clinton's ability to reposition herself in the "change" debate -- and make the case that she would work the hardest in shaking up the status quo -- should be one of the most crucial dynamics to watch in the waning days of the Iowa campaign.

-- Don Frederick