By Editor-in-chief
updated 1/12/2007 9:37:54 AM ET 2007-01-12T14:37:54

President Bush’s address to the nation marked an important starting point in the 2008 presidential race, forcing skittish politicians to plant their flags in the bloody battlefields of Iraq – on an issue that could launch or kill many candidacies.

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For both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, Bush’s plan to escalate the war in Iraq offered risks and rewards that won’t be measured for months, when the impact of this “new way forward” is fully felt. But, for those paying attention now, here’s the political crib sheet.

Bush broke it, McCain owns it: Republican front-runner John McCain had been nearly alone in Congress calling for an increase in U.S. troops. Now that Bush has done just that, McCain’s ambitions may be tied to the president’s abilities as a diplomat and military leader. That must give McCain pause. "I have to do what I believe is right and what I know is right,” the Arizona senator said. "And if I pay a price for that and it's a misjudgment, that's a price I'd willingly pay.”

Me-Too Doctrine: McCain rival Mitt Romney had refused to take a stand on the troop build-up. “I’m still governor,” he kept telling interviewers. Romney’s term as Massachusetts governor ended last week, as did his silence on troop escalation in Iraq. “I agree with the president.”

Oh, really, Mr. Mayor? Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who backed Bush’s plan, equates his experience as commander of a city police force with his hoped-for role as commander in chief. “It reminded me, as I listened to these briefings (on Iraq), to what I faced in New York City when we had tremendously high levels of crime.”

Brownback breaks: Conservative Sen. Sam Brownback grabbed a bit of badly needed attention by breaking with Bush. “I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer,” the Kansas Republican said.

Bog-man of Iraq: Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, called Bush’s proposal “a dangerously wrong-headed strategy” that will “sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq.” His language was stronger than that of some Democrats. Speaking of them …

Kerry-Edwards: The 2004 Democratic ticket is sprinting to the left, with Sen. John Kerry and former Sen. John Edwards announcing their support for Congress to cut off money needed to increase troop levels. That aligns them with the party’s liberal, Internet-fueled voting base. It puts them at odds with most Democratic politicians, who worry that such a move will be viewed by voters as undermining U.S. troops in the battlefield.

Cautious Clinton: Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, still defending her vote in favor of Bush’s war resolution, has been more moderate on the war than many Democrats. She seized the opportunity Wednesday to blast the president’s new plan, a bow to the left. “The president has not offered a new direction. Instead he will continue to take us down the wrong road – only faster.”

The said-so senator: Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the hottest thing in politics despite just two years in the Senate, sits pretty on his 2002 opposition to the Iraq war.“I think we are making a very bad mistake,” he said after Bush’s address.

The said-so-much senator: Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware called on Congress to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush’s troop increase, a tactic that was quickly embraced by Senate Democratic leaders. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has the benefit of a huge spotlight. As one of the Senate’s more loquacious politicians, the question for Biden is whether that spotlight shines or singes.

Who? Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an anti-war Democrat with virtually no shot at the presidency, has proposed an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and wants to deny any new funding to continue the war.

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