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With a little help from her friends

After an autumn in which Hillary Rodham Clinton looked all but assured of the Democratic nomination, the New York senator is bring in friends to help what was once seen as a juggernaut.
/ Source: National Journal

After an autumn in which loked all but assured of the Democratic nomination for president, the Clinton juggernaut is now struggling to prevent from taking the Iowa caucus. The New York senator is responding by getting more personal in her attacks, bringing in friends to help campaign and buying more ads -- lots and lots of ads.

As part of Clinton's recent push to hold off Obama in Iowa, her campaign released a new TV ad there this week featuring retired Gen. Wesley Clark. At the same time, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who endorsed Clinton in October, kicked off their own ad blitz with a TV spot promoting their candidate in the Hawkeye State.

In the Clinton campaign ad, Clark dismisses recent attacks on the former first lady as political rhetoric and, after reminding viewers of his role as NATO commander during the bombing of Kosovo, praises Clinton's strength in these "tough times." "I know she has what it takes to end the war in Iraq, avert war with Iran and restore our country's standing in the world," he assures viewers.

Besides boosting Clinton's national security credentials, the ad indirectly reinforces a recurring theme of her campaign: that she is stronger and more experienced than any of her rivals. Clark, who said in a conference call with reporters that he now regrets skipping Iowa in his own 2004 presidential bid, serves as both a symbol of military power and a reminder that Clinton has already spent time in the White House. "I hope Iowans will take what I say enthusiastically and in the right spirit," he said. "I've been there on the front lines of America's fight abroad."

AFSCME's contribution is less focused than the Clark spot, playing to Clinton's strengths and experience by praising her on both health care and security. But it could make the difference in next month's caucus, when arcane procedures and nasty winter weather can keep all but the most committed at home. "Caucus for Hillary," the ad urges. "The future's too important to stay at home."

The union has promised more ads to come before Jan. 3, and as the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza recently noted, AFSCME's not the only independent group trying to get a finger on the scales in Iowa. A liberal advocacy organization called Democratic Courage just released a Web ad criticizing Clinton as "too weak to win." The group hopes to raise enough money to run the ad on Iowa cable stations, adding to the already crowded airwaves.

Giuliani channels Reagan-like resolve
News out this week suggesting Iran quit its nuclear weapons program in 2003 has provoked debate among presidential contenders from both sides of the aisle -- with Democrats assailing the Bush administration's aggressive foreign policy approach and Republicans questioning whether the nuclear threat has really passed.

In his latest TV spot, seems to have spotted an opening from the NIE report to hearken back to Reagan-era foreign policy and remind voters of his own experience in the face of terrorists.

Giuliani begins the ad by recalling the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s and early '80s. President Jimmy Carter was unable to resolve the year-and-a-half-long crisis, which certainly contributed to his defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980. The hostages were eventually released -- but not, Giuliani reminds viewers, until "the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office."

Attributing that victory to Reagan's resolve in the face of "Islamic terrorists," Giuliani draws present-day lessons from the former president's leadership: "The best way you deal with dictators, the best way you deal with tyrants and terrorists, you stand up to them. You don't back down."

Like Giuliani's previous ads, "One Hour" will play on New Hampshire and Boston airwaves. However, it's his first spot to depart from references to Giuliani's days as New York City mayor, which have recently come under greater scrutiny.