Hillary Clinton thought she had driven a stake through it, but it turns out to be the issue that will not die: She voted to authorize the Iraq war, she refuses to say it was a mistake and she refuses to apologize for it.
And Barack Obama continues to whack her for it.
Obama opposed the war early and was lucky enough to not yet be a senator when it first came up for a vote.
Again and again, he pressed this advantage Thursday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles in the first one-on-one debate between Obama and Clinton.
Obama exploits the issue in two ways: First, he says Clinton's vote in favor of the war shows bad judgment.
"I was opposed to Iraq from the start," Obama said, "and I say that not just to look backwards, but also to look forwards, because I think what the next president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely."
Second, Obama says that his opposition to the war is something that he can use against the Republicans in the fall.
"I think I will be the Democrat who will be most effective in going up against a John McCain, or any other Republican," Obama said, "because they all want basically a continuation of George Bush's policies, [and] because I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war, thought it was a bad idea."
Obama also implied that Clinton might show the same muddled thinking getting U.S. combat troops out of Iraq that she showed getting them in, and that this is why he wants a date definite for withdrawal.
"It can't be muddy; it can't be fuzzy," he said.
Clinton, clearly following a "high-road" game plan, mildly responded: "You know, the point is that I certainly respect Sen. Obama making his speech in 2002 against the war, [but] when it came to the Senate, we've had the same policy."
She also said: "I think I made a reasoned judgment."
Obama's chances for the nomination rest on his being able to put together a coalition of minorities, the young and the party's most liberal voters. The latter two groups are the least likely to accept Clinton's explanations for her war authorization vote.
Except for the war and it was a big exception Clinton had a good evening, however. Debates emphasize issues, and Clinton loves to talk about issues, sometimes to Obama's frustration.
Having tried to go head to head with her on whose health care plan is best, Obama was reduced to trotting out his big-gun endorsement.
"You know, Ted Kennedy said that he is confident that we will get universal health care with me as president," Obama said. "And he's been working on it longer than, I think, anybody."
Which was Obama's way of saying: Nyah-nyah-nyah.
Obama is coming off a victory in South Carolina, the Kennedy endorsement and the announcement that he raised a record-setting $32 million in January, more than enough money to fund TV commercials in at least 20 of the 22 states at stake on Tuesday. In addition, the latest Gallup tracking poll shows Obama has narrowed Clinton's lead to just 4 percentage points nationally.
Still, Clinton looked commanding for much of the debate. She relishes any format that gives her an opportunity to talk about everything from Macedonia to Medicare. And she even had the zinger of the evening, addressing the complaint from a viewer that "we have had the same two families in the White House" for close to 20 years.
"You know, it did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush, and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush," Clinton said as the audience burst into sustained laughter and applause.
When Obama was talking, Clinton smiled pleasantly. When Clinton was talking, Obama often looked pensive.
But Obama wanted to make sure that nobody thought he was snubbing her at the debate as some thought he snubbed her at Monday's State of the Union speech: When the debate was over, Obama immediately stood and helped Hillary pull back her chair, even though she didn't look like she needed any help at all.