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Sweet column: Obama takes aim at Clinton in direct mail piece; dueling ads in Iowa. Obama looking over his shoulder at Edwards.

Theater marquee at Sioux City Obama rally (photo by Lynn Sweet)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — As the Democratic presidential front-runners stumped in Iowa on Monday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) released new ads — Clinton’s touted her Des Moines Register endorsement;

Obama’s featured upbeat selected quotes from the Des Moines Register and other news outlets.

Meanwhile:

The Obama campaign has produced a direct mail piece slamming Clinton for pressing the case that Obama’s health insurance plan would not lead to universal coverage because it does not include a mandate.

In a piece mailed in New Hampshire — and including citations from Iowa newspapers — Obama’s piece states “Slipping in the polls, Clinton is now attacking Obama.”

Clinton will throw her last fund-raisers before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus Tuesday evening in her native Chicago, hauling out $850,000 from a low-dollar event at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and a high-end reception at the Drake Hotel.

In Iowa, with the tight Democratic race, Obama stepped up his criticism of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as his candidacy is gathering steam

Talking about the problem with “special interests,” Obama, speaking in Spencer, Iowa, said Edwards has “been talking a lot” about his fight against lobbyists and the special interests. “Well the question you have to ask is were you fighting for ’em when you were in the Senate? What did you do?”

Said Chris Kofinis, Edwards’ communications chief: “I guess the Obama campaign is starting to realize what others have already: There is growing excitement on the ground for John Edwards as we enter the homestretch. But the truth is that John Edwards is the only candidate in this race who has never taken a dime of PAC or lobbyist money and he’s also the only one urging the Democratic Party to reject lobbyist money.”

A defensive Clinton appeared on six morning shows on Monday, plugging the endorsement from the most influential paper in this presidential vote leadoff state, at the same time peppered to react to Bill Clinton who said a vote for Obama was rolling the dice. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Clinton was asked if she agreed with her husband’s comments.

Not confronting the question, she said, “Well, I’m very proud to have Bill’s help in this campaign. He is working really hard; he’s providing a lot of energy as he goes around the country on my behalf. But this campaign is about me and my ideas.”

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