Rich Galen
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* It all stated over the weekend when Bob Novak's Sunday column began with the following:

Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.

* Yikes! This is the best of all worlds. A major, major columnist alleging skullduggery by the campaign of Hillary Clinton having unearthed (but holding onto) double secret, but way scandalous, info against Barack Obama.

* The Obama campaign responded the Novak report was "devoid of any facts, but heavy on innuendo and insinuation" and called on the Clinton campaign to affirmatively deny that any such info existed.

* Reuters reported:

The Clinton campaign denied the accusation, saying Obama's reaction to the vaguely worded column by Robert Novak played into Republican hands and showed the Illinois senator's lack of political savvy.

* But, Obama suggested that was a pretty lame denial in a press conference on Saturday when he said:

Look, the Clinton campaign didn't come out and deny it initially. Sen. Clinton's campaign, after three iterations of it, said they do not engage in these practices and they don't have any information that is scandalous, as was referred to in the Novak column.

* Taking that "three iterations" business as the shot that it was, the Clinton campaign responded:

"Senator Obama knows that our campaign responded instantly with a clear denial. Senator Obama is manufacturing an issue to distract voters from a disastrous debate performance that revealed that his health care plan doesn't cover every American."

* Oh, yes. That would be it. The old Health Care Coverage Dodge was at play here.

* Here's what's really at play. As we discussed here last week Hillary, Barack and John (Edwards - but John is such a pedestrian first name in a campaign which includes, in addition to the afore mentioned Hillary and Barack, a Willard, a Dennis, a Rudolph, a Duncan, and a Freddie) are now tied in the polling running up to the Iowa caucuses to be held on January 3, 2008.

* Hillary and Obama have raised enormous amounts of money and it appears Clinton has spent more than Obama has.

* One of the worst things which can happen in politics is to have lost a close election only to find there was a lot of money left in the bank.

* Obama understands he needs to beat expectations in Iowa or the only thing standing between Hillary and the nomination will be Bert Parks singing "Here she is, Ms. America."

* It is not outside the realm of possibility that it was anti-Hillary forces within the Democratic party which have been spreading gossip about Obama with the specific purpose of putting the Clinton campaign on the defensive.

* Just as it is possible that allies of the Romney campaign have been making those anti-Mormon push-poll phone calls in Iowa and New Hampshire specifically to create this syllogism:

-- A push-poll speaking ill of Mormons is a bad thing.

-- Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

-- Ergo, speaking ill of Mitt Romney is a bad thing.

* Politics at this level is not for the faint of heart.

* Let's get back to the Democrats eating their own: Last week, after a dreadful debate performance, Hillary's campaign allowed as how it was all those mean boys ganging up on the only girl.

* To my finely tuned ear for conspiracy, it appears that Obama campaign is tacitly alleging the White Clintons are spreading rumors about the only Black candidate in the campaign, thus feeding into the worst of any remaining racial biases in American politics.

* Robert Novak is known to have been incorrect in his analysis of the facts before him; but no one in this town has ever shown him to have invented an item.

* Someone fed Novak that business about the Clintons having dirt on Obama. Novak has proven he won't give up a source, but it bears public discussion as to which campaign is helped and which is hurt by such blind allegations.

* And you thought a thirty-second negative ad was the worst the system had to offer.

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Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.