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Inside Politics

Campaigns push furiously in countdown to caucuses

Turning out base of support seen as key to vote

Howard Dean speaks to supporters during a campaign stop Saturday morning in Mason City, Iowa.
Howard Dean speaks to supporters during a campaign stop Saturday morning in Mason City, Iowa.

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ON CNN TV: THE CAUCUSES
Watch CNN's complete live coverage of the Iowa caucuses, the kickoff to the 2004 political season. Join CNN's anchors, correspondents and analysts for all the results on Monday night. Caucus-goers convene statewide at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES

Delegates at stake in Iowa: 45

Delegates needed to win national Democratic presidential nomination: 2,161

Events ahead of July 25-31 national convention: 56 (36 primaries, 20 caucuses)

Biggest primary day: March 2 (1,151 delegates at stake)

Second-biggest primary day: February 3 (269 delegates at stake)

Compiled by Robert Yoon and Mark Rodeffer
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DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Four Democratic presidential hopefuls are heading into Sunday, the last full day of campaigning before Monday's Iowa caucuses, locked in a suddenly tight race.

Daily tracking polls show that what was once considered a two-man matchup between former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri has turned into a tight contest with those two and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina.

The candidates crisscrossed the state Saturday, with Edwards rallying volunteers at his headquarters in Des Moines.

"There is so much energy and excitement and momentum behind this campaign right now, and it's for a very simple reason," Edwards said. "This campaign is not based on the politics of cynicism. It's based on the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible.

"The country is hungry for that."

Kerry, too, claimed the mantle of momentum, during a Saturday swing that included six stops.

"I've always said there are three tickets out of Iowa, and I'm looking for one of them," he said.

Conventional wisdom holds that the top three candidates in Iowa get a boost before New Hampshire's January 27 primary. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

Speaking to firefighters in Clinton, Kerry reiterated his argument that he is the Democratic candidate with the national security credentials to take on President Bush in the fall -- a not-so-subtle dig at Dean, the front-runner in the national polls.

"I want you to stand with me on Monday, and on November 2, we'll send George Bush back to Texas," Kerry said.

But a Dean campaign aide turned up at Kerry's event, distributing a flier with comments Kerry made in 1996 about abolishing the Department of Agriculture -- an important agency in a farm state such as Iowa.

The Kerry campaign criticized the attack, saying the senator has a strong record in support of agricultural issues and farmers.

Earlier, the two candidates were exchanging barbs without even facing each other.

"Don't go [to the caucuses] to send America a message," Kerry told a crowd of supporters. "Go there and send America a president of the United States."

That same hour, Dean was telling a group of several hundred Iowans that their decisions Monday will send a critical message. (CNN Election Express Line dispatch)

The caucuses, Dean said, are "about whether Iowans signal the country that we want to change America.

"It's not enough to send a new president. We've got to change Washington. And you're not going to change Washington unless you send somebody who's going to stand up to the special interests and corporations who have been running the country under."

Monday evening, Iowa Democrats will meet in nearly 2,000 precinct caucuses to voice their presidential preferences. It is the first major contest of the 2004 Democratic presidential race.

After Iowa and New Hampshire, seven other states hold primary elections February 3.

Iowa party officials expect 110,000 people to participate. That would be about 20 percent of the state's 530,000 registered Democrats and almost twice the number who participated four years ago, when Al Gore beat Bill Bradley.

"There's a larger field of candidates generating more interest among more voters," said Gordon Fischer, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. "We've never had organizations on the ground like this."

Gephardt has acknowledged that Iowa is a must-win contest if he hopes to continue in the race. Gephardt won the Iowa caucuses during his presidential campaign in 1988.

Dean has also been placed in a position to win because of his popularity in media polls.

For Kerry, a victory in Iowa would defy expectations and provide momentum for New Hampshire, where he is a stronger candidate.

And for Edwards, a top-tier showing in Iowa would revive a campaign that had been all but written off by the pundits.

Two of the eight Democratic candidates -- retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- decided to bypass the Iowa event, concentrating their efforts instead on New Hampshire.

Polls are not good indicators of how the caucuses might turn out because of the nature of the events. The outcome in Iowa will likely depend on which candidate is most successful in turning out his base of support. (CNN.com's interactive caucuses explainer: How they work)

With many Iowans still undecided and the state's unique voting system, any of the four candidates could emerge the victor. (On the Scene: CNN's Bob Franken in Iowa; Judy Woodruff: The stubborn undecideds)

Dean's campaign is relying on new voters drawn to the caucuses by his outsider campaign, while labor unions backing Gephardt expect to turn out 30,000 people Monday night.

Edwards' campaign plans to knock on 50,000 doors between now and the caucuses, while Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, is hoping to harness votes from the 85,000 veterans in the state who are registered Democrats or independents.

Because President Bush is unopposed for the Republican nomination, the GOP is skipping precinct caucuses this year.

Endorsements and nerves

The candidates have been collecting endorsements daily, and Clark is expected to win the endorsement of 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern on Sunday, Clark campaign aides told CNN.

The two are expected to make a joint appearance at Keene Middle School in Keene, New Hampshire, where McGovern -- a three-term senator from South Dakota -- will call the general the "best Democrat running in this race," the campaign aides said.

McGovern placed second to Sen. Edmund Muskie from nearby Maine in New Hampshire during his 1972 campaign for the nomination, although many viewed his second-place finish as a win because Muskie was considered virtually a native son.

On Friday, Dean picked up the endorsement of Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan, who threw her support behind him, becoming the 35th House member to do so.

Dean now boasts one more House endorsement than Gephardt.

Kerry criticized Dean on that front as well, calling it "ironic" that Dean claims to be an outsider to the Washington establishment while collecting endorsements from "big institutions."

"I think I'm the real outsider here," Kerry told CNN. (Kerry: No 'economy of special privilege')

When asked to define himself as either an "insider" or an "outsider," Edwards told CNN's "Crossfire," "I'm somebody who's been in Washington long enough to know what's wrong with it and spend most of my life fighting these battles.

"The people in Iowa want change," he declared, saying that his campaign platform is the most clearly defined of any candidate on all the major issues.

Gephardt, who said he believes he'll win the Democratic nomination, said on "Crossfire" that he does not believe endorsements will play much of a role in Iowa. (Gephardt talks 'jobs' to workers)

Dick Gephardt speaks during a rally at the United Auto Workers Local 807 union hall Saturday in Burlington, Iowa.
Dick Gephardt speaks during a rally at the United Auto Workers Local 807 union hall Saturday in Burlington, Iowa.

"I'm looking for one endorsement: the endorsement of the Democratic voters here in Iowa. And I think I'm going to get it," he said.

At all their campaign stops, the candidates addressed crowds that want to see President Bush out of office.

Each presented himself as the only candidate who could beat Bush in November.

Edwards, emphasizing his own southern accent, called himself "the guy who can beat George Bush everywhere in America, in the North, in the West, in the Midwest and, talkin' like this, in the South!" (Edwards buoyed by gains)

Dean, meanwhile, said, "We can't beat George Bush by being Bush light" and said his campaign will reach out to the huge numbers of Americans who no longer vote.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa's most senior Democrat, who awarded his hotly sought endorsement to Dean one week ago, called his favored candidate "the Harry Truman of our time." (Harkin endorsement)

Bush-Cheney in primary states

John Kerry addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, Saturday.
John Kerry addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, Saturday.

The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign will send a high-profile team of surrogates to both Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming days to train and motivate Republican activists and to "show the flag" in states in which the Democratic presidential race has dominated political debate -- and news media coverage.

Among those headed to Iowa this weekend: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Bush-Cheney campaign chief Marc Racicot, campaign manager Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, White House political adviser Mary Matalin, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Ohio Rep. Rob Portman and Bush-Cheney campaign operative Ralph Reed also are on tap to travel to Iowa.

Campaign spokesman Terry Holt said the group will take part in training sessions and pep rallies with Republican activists as well as media interviews to "show the flag" at a time most of the attention is on the Democrats.

From Sunday through Tuesday, the Bush-Cheney surrogates are scheduled to take part in 80 local talk-radio programs in Iowa.

Other developments

John Edwards shakes the hand of a supporter after giving a speech at his headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.
John Edwards shakes the hand of a supporter after giving a speech at his headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.

• The Bush administration lacks a connection with working Americans as shown by its policies, Rep. Michael Michaud said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. Michaud pointed out a lack of job growth, President Bush's tax cuts and what he characterized as a flawed Medicare prescription drug plan. (Full story)

• President Bush promised new measures to promote jobs and business growth Saturday and promoted his trillion-dollar tax cuts in what amounted to a State of the Union preview. "Tax relief has helped turn our economy around," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Our economy grew at its fastest pace in two decades in the third quarter of 2003. Manufacturers are seeing a rebound in new orders in factory activity. And more than a quarter-million new jobs have been created since August." (Full story)

CNN's John King, Kelly Wallace, Dan Lothian, Bob Franken, Judy Woodruff, Candy Crowley, Deirdre Walsh, Kevin Bohn, Phil Hirschkorn, John Mercurio, Suzanne Malveaux, Dana Bash and Bill Schneider contributed to this report.


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