Our correspondent in Iowa, Lynda Waddington, brings us the on-the- ground scoop about what is happening in the final days of the campaign. These snippets are intended only to give local flavor, see the rest of our election coverage for SRH perspective.
…the campaign for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced it will run a two-minute television ad statewide on caucus eve — a closing statement, if you will. According to campaign insiders, the spot has yet to be filmed and will be aired during evening newscasts in all eight Iowa markets.
… former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spent Thursday night in Des Moines at a "We the People" rally/seminar that drew a crowd of over 1,000 conservative voters. Before Huckabee took the stage, a pastor urged those in attendance to keep the institution of marriage between one man and one woman.
An Iowa judge sparked a fire storm in the social conservative community earlier this year when he tossed out a ban on gay marriage. Less than 24-hours later the same judge stayed his ruling, but not before one gay couple was married. The judge's ruling is currently being appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, and social conservatives in the state have elevated the issue as one of their top priorities — perhaps even overshadowing abortion.
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The only major Republican presidential hopeful who has not often and forcefully spoken against same-sex marriage is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He also happens to be one of the lowest polling Republicans in the state. Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, has become a favorite among the most extreme of Iowa's social conservatives. Many believe that with the given field of Republicans, Huckabee's views most closely match their own.
Many believe that Iowa will be the first indication of which way the Republican Party, as a whole, will lean in the next election cycle. A good showing for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, for example, could mean that the fiscal conservative wing of the party is taking more control. (Ironic, given how much money Romney has spent here.) A win for Huckabee would be a nod to the social conservatives.
As a side note, the latest Bloomberg/LA Times poll shows Huckabee in the lead by eight points, followed by Romney. Twenty-six points behind Huckabee is another social conservative, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. The latest poll conducted by Strategic Vision shows both Huckabee and Romney within the margin of error. Thompson again follows, but this time only by 19 points.
… Illinois Sen. Barack Obama gets an award for best line following the 24-hour Christmas political break. While speaking to voters in Mason City, Obama asked, "You know what I got for Christmas? Eight hours of sleep… it was outstanding."
… as of Thursday, all the major candidates from both parties had returned (at least momentarily) to Iowa except Giuliani. He is currently on a tour of Florida and is expected back in Iowa this weekend — where he has little chance of a good showing on caucus night.
Huckabee was in Florida when he made his latest gaffe of extending "apologies" instead of "sympathies" to the people of Pakistan. Most Iowans, still caught up in the swirl of the final caucus push, aren't aware of the mis-speak.
One development that has not gone unnoticed by Iowans is that former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards seems to be the only presidential candidate who spoke personally with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
… more out-of-state volunteers showed up in Iowa Thursday. Nearly 300 college students arrived in Des Moines to help lead the "Ron Paul Revolution." The volunteers will be canvassing door-to-door during the day and phone banking at night — a great deal of hard work that the campaign hopes will propel Paul to a slot in the top three GOP finishers.