Two Republicans close to Karl Rove said that his decision to tie his exit from the Bush White House to a series of frontal assaults on the political viability of Sen. Hillary Clinton stems in part from his conviction that she will be the Democratic nominee, as Rove said. But there's also a bit of envy: Clinton has so successfully rehabiliated her image -- she's established her own political identity -- that Rove wants to pressure Republicans to begin their character attacks on Clinton now, rather than later.

It's a strategy Rove employed during the 2004 re-election, when the Bush campaign decided early to cover Bush's own negatives by portraying Sen. John Kerry as completely to lead the country during perilous times.

Aides to Sen. Barack Obama have another take. "There is a long view, which I think folks are missing," an Obama aide says. " This just underscores the old politics that we've been running against." In other words: Democrats are tired of Bush v. Clinton fights.

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