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updated 1/14/2008 2:40:20 PM ET 2008-01-14T19:40:20
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The upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina have sparked some of the most pointed and bitter exchanges yet between New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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You wouldn't know it from Clinton's campaign advertising, though.

The former first lady released a sunny new spot Friday in Nevada and South Carolina that contrasts markedly with attacks made by her and her surrogates against Obama over the weekend. Using footage of her victory speech in New Hampshire, a win many observers credit with keeping her competitive in the run-up to the Feb. 5 primaries, the ad paints Clinton as a hopeful candidate of change.

But rather than trumpet the word "change" itself -- already one of the most overused buzzwords of the election cycle -- the ad indirectly takes a swipe at President Bush. "It's time we had a president who stands up for all of you," Clinton says in a clip from her Granite State speech. Unlike some of her earlier advertising, this spot steers clear of specific policy details in favor of broad, feel-good bromides like "politics isn't a game."

More than that, it presents Clinton and her campaign as embodiments of progress, alluding to her efforts to connect with New Hampshire voters and reverse polling that showed her primed to lose the state to Obama. "I listened to you," Clinton tells a cheering audience, as footage rolls of her meeting with a diverse group of voters. "In the process, I found my own voice."

By emphasizing that the campaign "is about people" and not Clinton, the ad presents a powerful, positive appeal to voters in the next two big Democratic battleground states. The spot is part of Clinton's renewed focus on Nevada and South Carolina -- there were reports before the New Hampshire primary that she might cede South Carolina to Obama -- and she is now spending over a quarter-million dollars a week on advertising in those states.

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For now, the Clinton campaign is sticking to an upbeat message in its official advertising, but it's unlikely the negative attack ads that the Politico reported Clinton was holding before New Hampshire will remain on the shelves forever, especially if Obama wins Nevada or South Carolina.

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Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is relying on his native state of South Carolina to keep him relevant in this year's nominating contest. His "Bringing It Home" bus tour began crisscrossing the state on Friday, and his campaign has targeted its advertising efforts on the Palmetto State in the lead-up to the Jan. 26 Democratic primary. In his two latest ads, Edwards highlights his working-class background and his "native son" status in South Carolina, a state he won in his 2004 presidential run.

After placing second and third in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, respectively, Edwards needs a win to keep up with Clinton and Obama. The former vice presidential candidate has pledged to stay in the contest until the convention in late August, but he received something of a blow last week when his partner on the 2004 ticket, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, traveled to South Carolina to endorse Obama instead of Edwards.

Edwards continues to rely upon his populist message to win over voters down South, and his most recent ads seek to portray him as the authentic candidate in the Democratic field. "I'm not running for president because I read something in a book," he says in "Mill," a veiled swipe at Obama, whom Edwards has previously characterized as an academic rather than a politican. Rather, Edwards contends, he is running because of his deeply held belief that "the men and women who worked in that mill with my father were worth every bit as much as the man that owned that mill."

In "Native Son," Edwards says that going to Washington and "saving the middle class is going to be an epic battle," but "it's a fight I was born for." It remains to be seen, however, if Democratic primary voters are ready to give him the chance. The former North Carolina senator remains a distant third in most South Carolina and national polls.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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