Two Days Before Caucus Night and…

Lynda Waddington

Just two more days until the beginning of the primaries and Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee look strong in the last Des Moines Register poll before caucusing begins.

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 last Des Moines Register poll before the caucus shows former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as strong.

Huckabee is shown with a six-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the next closest candidate in the Republican field. The span between the two is virtually unchanged since the Register's last poll, despite a full-press assault from the Romney team. None of the other Republican contenders, according to the poll, are within striking distance.

Obama rose by four points to 32 percent, further widening the gap between him and both New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. The latter two remained at 25 and 24 percent, respectively, very close to November's polling figures.
The remaining candidates in the Democratic field all remained in single digits, none of them climbing any higher than the six percent who reported they remained undecided.

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… anti-war protesters continue to make their voice known during the caucus process.

Three members of the Seasons of Discontent: a Presidential Occupation Project (SODaPOP) were arrested Monday at the Huckabee's Des Moines campaign headquarters. Members of SODaPOP arrived at the campaign office in early afternoon, in search of a reply to a letter written two months earlier. The letter requested Huckabee's pledge to completely withdraw from Iraq within 100 days of assuming office, halt all military actions against Iraq and Iran; fund the rebuilding of Iraq as well as health, education and infrastructure needs in the United States, and provide the "highest quality health care, education and job training benefits for United States veterans.
The protesters had a banner that read, "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" as well as several smaller signs. Those inside the campaign headquarters read names of those who had lost their lives in the Iraq war, cited Biblical scripture and sang.

Members of the Des Moines Police Department responded to a complaint from campaign staff and arrested two women and one man, all in their mid-50s, on charges of trespass when they refused to leave the office without assurances that Huckabee, if elected president, would agree to the demands outlined in the letter.

A scheduled visit by Huckabee to the headquarters was delayed because of the incident. Throughout most of the activity, Huckabee and staff members remained in a campaign bus parked on the opposite side of the street. During the actual arrest, witnesses report the bus drove away — but returned later.

While they were being arrested, the three were cheered by many on the sidewalk, including supporters of Congressman Ron Paul, who walked over from their nearby headquarters. The trio was charged and released.

More SODaPOP actions are planned through Jan. 3.

… the past 24 to 36 hours weren't the best for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.

In addition to the stagnant poll numbers reported by the Register, the campaign has taken ire for comments made by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who endorsed Clinton in November, and Joy Philippi, who serves as the campaign's co-chairwoman of "Rural Americans for Hillary."

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Strickland, who has stumped for Clinton in Iowa, was quoted as saying that Iowa was the wrong place to begin the presidential nominating process. Needless to say, such sentiment did not set well with Iowans.

It was not only the comments made by Philippi, but her very appointment in a leadership role for the campaign that has some rural Iowans raising their eyebrows. Some believe that Philippi, who is a former president of the National Pork Producers Council, is against local control of hog lots. (An issue that may not be a news generator in most of the nation, but is a hot-button one in Iowa.)

According to local reports, when she was asked on Thursday if she is personally opposed to local control efforts and government regulations of confined animal feeding operations, she said: "That's the opinion of some. I think that's probably one of the misconceptions. I don't mean to avoid your answer, but I don't want something that's going to be adversarial for the campaign."

… after taking a good deal of Sunday off to tape a new television spot that was critical of Romney, Huckabee decided not to go through with putting the ad on the air.

He did, however, gather the gaggle of press for a news conference and showed them the ad. Perhaps it is Huckabee's way of saving campaign funds.

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