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The battles for Iowa, NH

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows a tight race in Iowa with Clinton leading at 29%, followed by Obama at 26% and Edwards at 25%. Yet in New Hampshire, Obama leads with 32% -- followed by Clinton at 30% and Edwards at 18%.

On the attributes front, the poll found similar results as other surveys. "Clinton is viewed as most experienced, best prepared to be president and most qualified to handle a range of important issues, including Iraq, terrorism, the economy and health care. She also is viewed as the least honest candidate and less likely to produce change in Washington than Obama, 46. By contrast, Obama, is viewed by both Iowa and New Hampshire voters as an agent of change, the more honest candidate and most likely to tell voters what he thinks rather than what they want to hear."

On the GOP side, the poll finds Huckabee with a very large lead over Romney in Iowa, 37%-23%. In New Hampshire, Romney leads big over McCain, 34%-21%, followed by Giuliani at 14%, and Huckabee at 9%. "The poll shows stark differences among Iowa caucus-goers and New Hampshire primary voters on religion. In Iowa, Republicans by almost 3 to 1 say Huckabee's religious beliefs are a positive factor. Almost half of these Iowa voters say Romney's Mormon faith is a negative. 

Note that these polls were conducted December 20-23.

The New York Times does the Iowa-is-saturated-by-TV-ads story. "The Democrats are spending by far the most on television advertising here, and smashing records in the process. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has spent the most, at $8.3 million, Mrs. Clinton has spent $6.5 million, and Mr. Edwards, of North Carolina, has spent $2.7 million, according to an analysis by CMAG, a firm that tracks political advertising spending. Over the last week, Democratic candidates combined have spent at least $565,000 on television advertising, for a total of $23.7 million this year. In the 2004 race, Democratic candidates set a record by spending a combined $9.1 million for the entire campaign in Iowa."

More: "Republican candidates -- Mr. Romney, Fred D. Thompson and Mr. Huckabee -- have spent a total of $9.5 million so far on Iowa advertising. Mr. Romney has spent by far the most, $6.5 million on more than 8,000 spots, though his considerable and early investment has not helped him maintain his initial lead in polls; Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, now appears to hold the lead, and he and Mr. Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, have each spent just over $1 million on advertising. (President Bush did not face opposition in Iowa in 2004.)

As the Des Moines Register's Yepsen did yesterday, Time's Scherer looks at the battle for third in Iowa.