Four Days Before Caucus Night And…

Lynda Waddington

Just four days to go before the primaries are underway and the candidate's families, and a few stars, are out stumping. New years eve celebrations, Iowa style, are planned and a slew of new ads hit the airwaves.

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.

… retail politics is just another synonym for family.

Barack Obama's mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, were walking through neighborhoods in snowy eastern Iowa Saturday afternoon. The pair was canvassing door-to-door on behalf of their family member, the Illinois Senator. Afterward, they delivered at least three signed supporter cards to headquarters.

Obama's wife, Michelle, is also in Iowa and will be hosting events in the western half of the state today.

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Sen. Chris Dodd's wife, Jackie, has also been making the rounds on behalf her husband. She is planning several unannounced stops in communities throughout the state in the coming days.

Sen. Joe Biden's family — including his sister Valerie, wife Jill, son Beau (who is the attorney general in Delaware) and other assorted family members — continue to be fixtures around the state. Today, Valerie will be hosting several meet-and-greet events in Linn and Benton counties. Jill will meet Democrats in and around the Des Moines area while Beau will be in Harrison County.

Pres. Bill Clinton is back in Iowa Monday to host events in three Iowa cities on behalf of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He will join Hillary at the final event of the day, a New Year's Eve celebration… more on that in a minute.

Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, is scheduled to make appearances with him today and Monday as a part of the campaign's "Strong America" bus tour. It looks like the Mitt Mobile is gassed and ready to hit the Iowa trail once again. No word yet on if Tagg or any of the other members of the Romney family will be making guest appearances.

Bill Richardson's campaign hasn't released an official schedule of events for his wife, Barbara, but those who have attended his recent events have said that she's often traveling with him.

The same is often true of John Edwards wife, Elizabeth. She and daughter, Cate, did a short swing of events on Friday, but no word yet if the family will be traveling together or solo in the final days.

… the stars are shining in Iowa.

Richard Schiff, Emmy Award-winning star of "The West Wing" is stumping throughout Iowa this weekend for Biden. Edwards has planned a "This is Our Country" rally on Wednesday night in Des Moines with singer-songwriter John Mellencamp.

Dukes of Hazzard star Ben "Cooter" Jones is traveling Iowa this weekend and Monday on behalf of Edwards, pitching the candidate's plan for rural America.

Actor and activist Martin Sheen will be campaigning in and around the Des Moines area on behalf of Richardson today and Monday.

… the candidates are announcing their plans for New Year's Eve celebrations.

A "New Year, New Beginnings Celebration" has been scheduled by the Clinton campaign. The Senator will make appearances in Muscatine and Waterloo before traveling to Des Moines for the culmination event. The former President will be in Missouri Valley and Ottumwa before coming to Des Moines. They will ring in the new year together at a rally in Capital Square.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will attend a New Year's Eve party at his headquarters in Mason City.

The Richardson campaign is planning a New Year's Eve party in Des Moines at the Quality Inn.

While plans are still being announced, the only candidate thus far who is definitely not welcoming the new year from an Iowa zip code is Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He and his wife, Elizabeth, announced they are now in New Hampshire until after the state's first-in-the-nation primary. The two, who only recently mourned the death of Kucinich's brother, will host a New Year's Eve party and concert at the MCAM TV-23 studios in Manchester, N.H. — "Resolution for Peace: A New Year's Concert for the
Community." The event will be televised locally and on the candidate's website.

… labor endorsements are starting to pay bigger dividends in terms of people-power.

Iowa Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger continues to join the Dodd family on a "Get-Out-The-Vote" bus tour throughout the state. The IAFF has also deployed a number of graduates from the IAFF Political Training Academy, and partnered them with either a regional coordinator or a local president for the purpose of visiting every fire station and shift in the state to college campaign pledge cards. So far the efforts have led to more than 26 percent of the statewide membership — which includes a number of Republicans — committing to to caucus for Dodd on Jan. 3.

Today, the Edwards campaign will stage a statewide canvass that will include members of the Iowa Postal Workers Union, Iowa Service Employees International Union, the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. The groups will have copies of the Edwards' 80-page policy book to give to interested caucus-goers.

… the Obama campaign website went dark for a short time Saturday.

Within just a few minutes of users reporting the website being unresponsive, it was mostly back up with a new look and front page news about the change. "It starts with Iowa and before you know it more than half the states in the country will have weighed in by February 5th," writes Joe Rospars. "We're about to head into what will be the decisive contests of this election, and this morning we gave our website a bit of a refresh in order to prepare for it."

Although the front has been given a new graphic and links to many states instead of just the early ones, the Iowa area remains relatively unchanged.

… more new ads have hit the airwaves in Iowa (and YouTube).

Romney has launched a new television ad, entitled "Ready," that "highlights the very important choice voters will have to make when it comes to electing a candidate ready to make tough decisions. The ad takes direct swipes at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for increased spending, providing in-state tuition benefits for "illegal immigrants" and pardoning or commuting over 1,000 while governor. On Sunday, Romney also launched a new, but similar, ad in New Hampshire that contrasts him with Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The latest Clinton ad, "President," spotlights the cost of the "Bush Administration's inaction on the housing crisis and calls attention to Hillary's plan to freeze home foreclosures, freeze rates on adjustable mortgages and provide real tax relief for the middle class."

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has been running an ad, "Substance," to coincide with his "Clear Conservative Choice" bus tour. The 30-second spot highlights his plans for tax cuts, immigration and his recent endorsement by the National Right to Life Committee.

Obama has two ads currently playing — "Interest" and "Listening." The first highlights "the millions of dollars spent by some of those Washington, DC-based groups to falsely attack Obama's health care plan." While, the second features footage of Obama's speech before Iowa Democrats at this year's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and endorsements from Iowa newspapers.

McCain has new ads running in Boston and New Hampshire in response to what the campaign said was a "Mitt Romney negative attack ad" in the same market.

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Countdown to Iowa, Election 2008

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