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The battle for Iowa

The New York Times looks at the Democratic ground war. Obama "is on the hunt for Iowans who have never participated in the state's presidential caucuses, including independent voters under 50 and students who will be 18 by the general election." Clinton "is searching for Iowans who have skipped the caucuses in the past and who, because of age, sex or other characteristics, seem likely to support her, starting with independent women over 65 and under 30." And Edwards "is taking a more traditional approach, working through the official list of Democrats who showed up to choose a candidate in 2004."

More: "The ground war - the laborious, unglamorous process of identifying supporters and making sure they show up to make their preference known when it counts - has always been a critical part of the contest in Iowa. But the turnout effort among Democrats this time around has exploded into the most ambitious and costly in the history of this state's presidential caucus system, and it puts on display the sharply diverging strategies the candidates are pursuing as they hurtle toward the first real test of the 2008 campaign."

The Clinton, Edwards, and Obama camps seem to agree with this:
-- if turnout equals 2004 (approx. 125,000), advantage Edwards.
-- if turnout is slightly up (say, 130,000-140,000), advantage Clinton.
-- and if turnout is way up there (think 140,000+), advantage Obama.

The MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon poll isn't the only new Iowa survey out today. A Reuters/C-Span/Zogby tracking poll has Clinton ahead (outside the margin of error) over Obama and Edwards, 31%-27%-24%. On the GOP side, it's Huckabee 29%, Romney 28%, McCain 11%, and Thompson, Giuliani, and Paul all tied at 8%.

The Des Moines Register's Yepsen says Iowa caucus-goers are looking for "a candidate they like and trust - and who can put together the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House." He breaks down the electability arguments for and against the major candidates.

The Register's Beaumont breaks down the keys for Thursday. "For Democrats: Which campaign will attract the most first-time caucusgoers? For Republicans: Does Mike Huckabee have the organization to support his lead in the polls?"