Now that it’s really really a race, Mrs. Inevitable has to leap into the trenches for some fisticuffs.

Senator Clinton turned up the heat on Barack Obama on Sunday, saying the race comes down to “courage and convictions” — and blasting Obama’s positions on health care and his Political Action Committee as lacking both.

Hillary came out firing on the health care before she took even a single question at a media availability in Cedar Rapids, accusing Obama of changing his tune on whether his plan covers all Americans depending on the audience. “Yesterday, in the space of a few hours, it went from universal when I wasn’t there, to comprehensive when we were on the same [stage],” she said — a reference to Saturday’s Black/Brown Presidential Forum in Iowa, where Obama seemed to be at great pains not to call his plan “universal.”

Oh, Obama’s plan is universal all right. It’s also totalitarian, but never mind that since it seems to be a common feature among Democrat health plans. To her credit, at least Clinton’s plan gets to “universal” coverage by tax breaks rather than wage garnishing as Edwards’ and Obama’s plans do. Or at least that’s what her web site says. Who knows what she’ll do if she actually has the reins of power?

Back to Hillary’s attack on Obama. She treads into territory that’s unwise for a Clinton.

And asked whether she was saying this was an issue of character when it comes to Senator Obama, Senator Clinton at first demurred — but then said “it’s beginning to look a lot like that. You know, it really is, where you can’t get a straight answer on health care; where somebody who runs on ethics and not taking money from certain people is found out to have at least skirted if not violated the FEC rules, and to use lobbyist and PAC money to do so.”

Throughout the 90s and especially after 1998, we were told that character in a president didn’t count. Now it does? If so, Mrs. Clinton is opening herself up to a world of questions. Rose law firm records…? Etc.

There’s video of Clinton ripping Obama at the link. She carries the disadvantages of being in no position to question anyone’s character, and of being particularly off-putting when going on the attack. Bill Clinton could attack you with a wink and make you smile at the same time. Hillary Clinton possesses no such charm.

Update: You want to talk about character, Sen. Clinton? Ok.

Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show how Hsu’s business associates traded on his connections — going so far as to claim that former President Clinton was a Hsu client — to lure investors into a scheme that took in tens of millions of dollars nationwide.

A marketing brochure distributed by an Orange County firm to attract investors to Hsu’s business claimed the 56-year-old Hong Kong native’s “extensive political investment community includes former President Bill Clinton, who continues to invest to this day.”

Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, denied that the former president had invested with Hsu. And Sen. Clinton’s financial disclosure statements show no investments or income from Hsu for her or her husband.

Still, as a marketing tactic, the claim may have worked all too well: A Southern California couple recently filed a lawsuit saying they lost more than $3 million in a Hsu-run Ponzi scheme — based in part on the brochure’s promises.

In September, federal prosecutors charged Hsu, saying he defrauded investors out of $60 million and violated federal election laws for reimbursing political donors for contributions made in their names.

There’s more where that came from.