Clinton's Economic Turn

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton's "major economic address" Wednesday symbolizes the turn, generally, away from Iraq, generally, and the turn toward bread and -- less/guns more..butter. Voters are uncomfortable with Obama's lack of foreign policy experience; they are NOT anxious about his lack of domestic policy experience.

So Clinton's task to convince voters that Obama's lack of domestic policy experience matters. Talk about tough trails to trod: Clinton has, for eight months, successfully injected skepticism into voters' perception of Obama on foreign policy.

Voters get Clinton's argument: she was by her husband's side, she knows what the WHite House environment is like, she knows how to navigate the cross-pressures of Washington. Now that voters are beginning to care more, in relative terms, about their own bottom lines, their health care, their children's education, they're giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. They don't see how his experience differs all that much from hers.

Now -- the Clinton campaign believes that IF Obama's domestic policy credentials are called into question, his support among women drops off precipitously. The task is to convince, persuade Iowa voters that the question is worth their posing. How? By pointing out gaps in his plans, by calling his trustworthiness and honesty into question, by suggesting that he just doesn't get it -- he's too green to leave the important work of governing.

So far, Clinton has been inartful in this new phase. Some of her allies concede that her campaign press release that used an essay Obama wrote as a kindergartener to make a point about his ambitions was fairly poorly received and suspect that it will come back to haunt her. The coverage she's gotten in the national press has been process-oriented -- she's "going negative" -- rather than substantive. It's been about 50/50 in Iowa.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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