Candidates end last full day of Iowa campaigning

January 2, 2008 8:59:02 PM PST
The presidential candidates made their final pitches to the voters of Iowa. On Thursday, hundreds of thousands are expected to gather for the state's caucuses.

With the turnout predicted to be less than 300,000, every vote counts. That's why the candidates are doing some last minute scrambling, looking for votes in every corner of the state.

Finally, after 22 debates, thousands of speeches, campaign appearances, handshakes and tens of millions of dollars in campaign expenses, the actual voting is about to begin Thursday night in this strange process known as a caucus, which is more like a PTA meeting. But of course, the stakes are a lot higher. That is why all of the candidates in this up-and-down, helter-skelter race are going full-speed, and both races are said to be too close to call.

Some of Hillary Clinton's childhood friends from suburban Park Ridge were canvassing, door-to-door, among the undecided voters who may hold the key to victory in the Iowa caucus. Barack Obama's pals, like Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, flew in to lobby the young voters who could give him the edge. Wolunteers like college student Tarak Shah gave up their winter breaks to handle the nuts-and-bolts of caucus night.

"We're calling people, arranging rides for wheelchair folks and babysitting at caucus locations," said Shah, Obama volunteer.

"We believe in Hillary's qualities, and we want to be here so we can share our beliefs in Hillary with other people who don't know her as well as we do," said Cheryl Harbour, friend of Clinton.

Meanwhile, the Democratic frontrunners made their final pitches in two-minute TV ads. The race is so tight among the three top Democrats, that Obama and Clinton are taking the unprecedented step of running the two-minute personal appeal ads during the six-o'clock hour on every single news station. When Democratic candidate John Edwards heard about it, he scrambled to put together a one-minute spot of his own. All the candidates soldiered through round-the-clock campaigning from one end of the state to the other, including hard-charging Edwards, who was at the end of a 36-hour campaign marathon.

"I'm asking every one of you to go to the caucus. I'm asking you to go and caucus for me and to take some of your friends with you to the caucus," said Edwards.

"We can reach for something bigger and something better. And I promise you this, we will not just win the caucus, we will win the primary," said Obama..

The Republican race is also a toss-up between two former governors who couldn't be much more different - the folksy, low-budget campaign of former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, against the hard-hitting, high-cost effort of multi-millionaire Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

"I can't wait for tomorrow at 7:30 as we will get some early reports," said Romney.

"If you'll go out there and caucus for me and we win this thing the political landscape will never be the same again, ever," said Huckabee.

Some of the other big-name Republicans, including John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are not actively campaigning in Iowa. That has created an opening for Huckabee in a state where 40 percent of the GOP voters identify themselves as Christians.

On the Democratic side, if the turnout is big among independents and young voters, that could enable Obama to win and become the instant frontrunner. If a lot of angry Democrats show up, it could help Edwards and keep his campaign alive. Meanwhile, Clinton is hanging on by her fingernails, one time a big frontrunner, there's now a chance she could actually finish third.