By Dave Detling

1/01/08 —

Last week’s
assassination of Benazir Bhutto has brought foreign politics back to
the campaign forefront. Matters that were once center stage had all
but disappeared, until now.

Among the small town meetings, rallies, and statewide tours of Iowa,
presidential candidates have hardly honed in on foreign affairs
outside Iraq. But now, Pakistan has changed all that.

Senator Hillary Clinton was quick to remind her Iowan supporters that
she personally knew Bhutto, recounting how she had visited Bhutto more
than 10 years ago.

As Clinton takes the limelight, rookies like Barack Obama and Mike
Huckabee are having trouble flaunting such personal connections. But
that hasn’t stopped them from weighing in.

Soundbite: Sen. Barack Obama/(D) Chicago
“My heart goes out to the family but right now we also have to make
sure there’s an investigation that is credible, that we don’t see
major delays in fair and free elections in Pakistan. And we start
going after the terrorists that have started setting up bases in in
northwestern Pakistan.”

[Video credit: Dave Detling]

Meanwhile Huckabee has been doing some Pakistani political cleanup.
Last Thursday he showed ignorance when it became clear he didn’t know
Pakistan’s state of emergency had been lifted two years ago.

But the blunder didn’t stop there. During his caucus tour last Friday,
Huckabee told his supporters that Pakistani aliens were entering the
United States in large numbers, second only to Mexican immigrants.

And Iowa’s caucus promises to get more interesting as January third
approaches. While candidates rant on about taxes, healthcare, and
civil rights, Iraq still plagues the minds of many voters.

Polls from earlier in the year show Americans still place Iraq at the
top of their national list of concerns.

But in a year’s time, when voters are called on to vote it’s likely a
new issue could position itself on top. Unexpected developments on
the international front (Iran, Russia and global terrorism come to
mind) might require a complete reassessment.

There is always the possibility the election will reflect an affection
of one candidate’s personality over another. Then there’s Iowa’s
frigid weather. Those brave enough to weather the storm may decide
Iowa’s outcome.

Still, with two days left, the tides could change. A top tier
candidate could crumble to his or her knees while a second tier
candidate steals the show.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Dave Detling, WEBN News.