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Last Chance?

Updated

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Are there now low expectations for today’s debate of Democratic contenders? The Des Moines Register gathers the field this afternoon for their final match up before the Iowa caucus, after what was regarded as a tame forum with their GOP counterparts on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, it will be of interest to see if any mention is made of Hillary Clinton’s apology to Barack Obama’s campaign after its New Hampshire co-chair Billy Shaheen raised the question of the Illinois senator’s drug use as a teenager. He, too, later apologized.

Campaign manager David Plouffe responded, “Hillary Clinton said attacking other Democrats is the ‘fun part’ of this campaign, and now she’s moved from Barack Obama’s kindergarten years to his teenage years in an increasingly desperate effort to slow her slide in the polls.”

But such personal politics were generally avoided in yesterday’s match up.  Instead, this debate marks the last major chance for the second tier of candidates to make their case and score some points.

Joe Biden said last week that he was encouraged that, in contrast to other match ups, “most Iowa caucus goers will watch it.”

Biden, of course, has scored some of the best lines of the debates so far, including the zinger that Rudy Giuliani only speaks in a “noun, a verb and 9/11.” This despite a reputation for being somewhat verbose.

“My brother Jimmy, who is a real wag, called me after the Philadelphia debate,” Biden told Variety after an Iowa event, “He said, ‘I just read that Hillary got 21 minutes, Barack 19 and you got 6, and they said you won.’ Then he said, ‘Joe, there’s a lesson in that.'”

Severed Ties: The Huffington Post reports that Bill Clinton and longtime Democratic superdonor Ron Burkle have severed their business ties, out of worry that some of their financial interests could spill over as issues in Hillary Clinton’s presidential race.

Pitt on the Prez Race: On “Larry King Live” last night, Brad Pitt said again (as he said here last week) that’s he’s still undecided on who to endorse. Both the Clinton and Obama camps have offered their support for his New Orleans rebuilding plan.

Broder on Oprah/Obama: In the Washington Post, he says the real dividend was in the form of the more than 20,000 names the campaign collected at its Iowa event.

He writes, “It was a human metaphor for a political tsunami — men and women, young and old, many families with children, bundled to their chins against the outdoor cold but patiently waiting their turn to be admitted to what was, in essence, another damn political rally.”

Quotable: “When people see me in airports, they always ask me where they know me from. I tell them I’m the weatherman on their local TV station.” James Baker, at the premiere of “Charlie Wilson’s War” on Monday in Universal City, on why he went largely unnoticed to the showbiz crowd. His daughter has a supporting part in the film.

New Surrogate: Hillary Clinton’s mother, Dorothy, appears in this new campaign ad.

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