DES MOINES - Where did Hillary Clinton's mojo go?
That's what her campaign has to be asking after a rough two weeks. And more importantly, they have to be wondering how to recapture that fading aura of an unstoppable juggernaut.
Top Clinton strategist Mark Penn doesn't own up to his candidate suffering a dip, but he admits it's been tougher of late.
"The opponents went negative, and that created a new dynamic and a different set of headlines," Penn said.
The new dynamic emerged at the debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago, but didn't just spring from sharp criticism by her opponents. Clinton stumbled by offering fuzzy answers to some questions and refusing to take a stance on Gov. Spitzer's license plan for illegal immigrants.
Then Camp Clinton's damage control backfired as she was pounded for suggesting the "boys" ganged up on her. And Bill Clinton brought more scorn when he said the attempt to get an answer out of his wife on licenses verged on John Kerry Swift Boat territory.
Now Penn and company plan to stick to the high road, talking about Clinton's strength, experience and vision for America, fund-raising at a torrid rate and deploying Bill Clinton more.
They're also launching counterattacks, calling her opponents mudslingers.
Don't make the mistake of thinking Clinton is just the poor little girl being picked on. I don't think the other candidates are going to like where this is headed. They have attacked her now and the Clinton smear machine will begin working over the next couple of weeks. She can play that game with the best of them.
Get a load of the last couple of lines in this article:
Some Democrats saw damage from the attacks but liked Clinton more.
"I think it is hurting her, although for me, it's made me feel a little better toward her," said Roy McCoy, of Riverside, Iowa. "I don't like bullying."
Roy, you have not seen bullying yet. But I am sure Hillary will show you a fine display very soon.