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What's Likely To Happen In Vegas

If you're wondering about Hillary Clinton's approach to tonight's debate, look no further than the memo sent out under strategist Mark Penn's name today. Penn writes:

What is the most important card in this race? The leadership card.

That is the card that we see in poll after poll that analyzes why people are voting for Hillary Clinton.  

And so while opponents are strategizing and re-launching their campaigns with aggressive personal attacks on Sen. Clinton, one truth remains--running for president is not a qualification for president.

The voters are looking for someone who has the strength and experience to lead, and little has changed in the last few weeks outside of the massive media coverage of the attacks.

As Senator Clinton has said, change is just a word unless you have the strength and experience to make it happen.

So let’s look at the ratings voters give the three leading candidates on the qualities they look for in a president.  

On the questions of who is best able to handle Iraq and Iran, Hillary Clinton is the runaway leader. More than half of Democratic primary voters say Hillary can best handle Iran (52%) and Iraq (50%)--more than twice the number for Barack Obama (23% on Iraq and 22% on Iran) and John Edwards (14% on Iran and 16% on Iraq) (ABC/Washington Post Oct 29-Nov 1).

Senator Clinton also has an overwhelming lead among Democrats on being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency (76% for Clinton and 41% for Obama), having the strong leadership qualities needed to be president (72% for Clinton and 55% for Obama), being inspirational and an exciting choice for president (64% for Clinton and 56% for Obama), being a good commander in chief (63% for Clinton and 43% for Obama) and bringing real change to the direction of the country (63% for Clinton and 52% for Obama) (NBC/WSJ Nov 1-5).

I suspect you'll hear a lot about leadership, strength, and experience every time Obama or Edwards hits Clinton for double-talking or triangulating. Maybe even something like, "While these guys have been reinventing themselves as attack dogs, I've been running on my experience and leadership from the get-go."

P.S. Can that number on being "inspirational and an exciting choice" be right? More later.

--Noam Scheiber