Remember Rick Lazio.
In the build-up to tonight's Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia, buzz is building that Barack Obama and John Edwards will go after front-runner Hillary Clinton in the most aggressive way of the entire campaign.
On Monday, Obama hit Clinton for not being specific about what she would do to fix Social Security, and he has telegraphed that he will criticize her more directly and personally. Edwards has already started, on Monday accusing her of being part of a corrupt Washington system.
Hours before the debate, the Edwards campaign made clear it will criticize Clinton in scalding terms. Campaign manager David Bonior issued a memo that accuses Clinton of defending a broken, corrupt system of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.
"It is these lobbyists, the corporate interests they serve, and the policies that they pervert, that are destroying the promise of America," Bonior writes.
The memo also quotes what Edwards said Monday in New Hampshire: "Down one path, we trade corporate Democrats for corporate Republicans; our cronies for their cronies; one political dynasty for another political dynasty; and all we are left with is a Democratic version of the Republican corruption machine."
(Rival Bill Richardson chided Edwards and Obama for their "negative tone," telling the Associated Press today while campaigning in New Hampshire, "I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton.")
But Edwards and Obama will be playing with fire if they use the debate to attack Clinton.
Just ask Lazio, who was a Republican congressman from New York in September 2000 when he took on Clinton in a US Senate debate in Buffalo. He called her a carpetbagger. Then, at the end of the debate, he came out from behind his lectern and strode over toward hers, challenging her to sign a promise not to raise or spend any more unrestricted "soft money."
To many, he came off as a bully -- or at the least, not much of a gentleman -- in a clip that was replayed over and over.
Clinton had the last laugh, winning her first term 55 percent to 43 percent.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign isn't being shy about trying to preempt any attacks tonight by accusing Edwards and Obama of abandoning the "politics of hope."
"Considering that both Senators Obama and Edwards made their names by pledging to be positive, the last thing one would have expected was for either of them to go out and announce with pride that they were now going to go negative on a fellow Democrat. It's unprecedented in my experience," chief strategist Mark Penn wrote in a memo distributed to the media.
"Of course, Hillary will not hesitate to set the record straight on the issues that opponents raise about her."