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Note to Clinton: The heat comes with the turf

November 2, 2007 |  9:12 am

As has been widely noted, the "poor us" vibe continues to emanate from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign after Tuesday's feisty candidate debate.

The "politics of pile on" is the phrase pushed by her staff (as noted here, it got incorporated into a plea for money). The theme was buttressed by a YouTube video that got a lot of attention. And the candidate herself, during an appearance Thursday at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, cut to the chase of the not-so-subtle message being sent.

As Newsday's Glenn Thrush writes, Clinton "played the gender card ... suggesting she's being singled out as the lone woman in an all-male presidential field."

Gee, color us insensitive, but maybe it also has something to do with the enormous amount of money she's raised, the depth of her institutional support within her party and the strong lead she's staked out in national polls. In short, she's the front-runner -- and thus the obvious target.

For a little perspective on this point, let's go back to those bygone days of the fight for the 2004 Democratic nomination, to a time when Howard Dean was viewed as the boss of the walk. There were frequent debates. And here's how stories in The Times characterized a couple of those encounters:

1/5/04: "With Iowa's Jan. 19 caucuses approaching, Democrats chasing former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean relentlessly attacked his policies, temperament and credibility in a pointed debate Sunday."

"The focus was squarely on the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race throughout the two-hour session, as Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts accused him of flip-flopping on issues, Rep. Dick Gephardt charged that Dean supported Republican plans to cut Medicare in the mid-1990s and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut assaulted Dean's decision to block the release of some of his records as governor."

1/12/04: "Democratic presidential rivals jabbed at Howard Dean on Sunday night over his approach to race, taxes and immigration, taking one last shot at the front-runner in the last debate before next week's pivotal Iowa caucuses."

Dean "was on the defensive much of the night, faltering several times as he was quizzed about the racial makeup of his Cabinet as governor of Vermont and how he would deal with illegal immigrants."

Some of those topics -- immigration policy, release of public records -- sound awfully familiar. And, of course, Howard Dean is not a woman.

-- Don Frederick