It's the season for piling on Hillary Clinton.
The Republican presidential candidates want to prove to Hillary-fearing conservatives that they are best equipped to defeat her in the 2008 general election and block what they argue would be her left-wing, big-government-oriented administration if elected. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the most aggressive in attacking her as he tries to set himself apart from his GOP rivals. But the anti-Hillary tone among the Democratic candidates is also growing harsh as the New York senator maintains her national lead as the party's presidential front-runner.
Last weekend, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards while campaigning in New Hampshire, criticized Clinton for "moving from primary mode to general election mode" by voting for legislation that some Democrats fear could be used by President Bush to authorize an attack on Iran. Clinton denies that the measure would provide that authorization, but Edwards said, "We don't need a candidate who has a primary mode and a general election mode—we need a candidate whose only mode is truth-telling." He added: "After seven years of George Bush, the strongest general election candidate will be a straight-shooter, not a candidate who changes what they say depending on the day."
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is also on the offensive. He said Friday that, in contrast to Clinton, he didn't want to give Bush "any excuse, any opening for war." Obama said he opposed the Iran measure even though he wasn't in Washington to cast his vote. On Saturday in Iowa, Obama took another shot at Clinton, saying, "I'm not going to win just by being the most calculating politician in this race."
Democratic insiders say Clinton's Democratic rivals have little choice but to step up their criticism of Clinton and draw distinctions with her, lest she run away with the nomination. The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are less than three months away.
—Kenneth T. Walsh