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First thoughts: One day to Iowa

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
DES MOINES, IA -- One day until the caucuses… As we've noted before, everyone in Iowa is a prisoner of anecdotes right now, because what else do we have to go on? The Des Moines Register poll? Um, no. Anyway, one thing that we picked up yesterday while watching the candidates: Clinton, Obama, and Romney seem a heckuva lot more comfortable on the trail than Edwards and Huckabee. Perhaps that makes a lot of sense because both Edwards and Huckabee HAVE to do well here to take off, while the other three have the resources to reboot their campaign in another state. Obviously, not doing well here will be a problem for Clinton, Obama and Romney -- but not nearly as lethal as doing poorly here would do to Edwards and Huckabee. No wonder the two are pressing.

*** If you haven't seen enough ads… : And as far as final pitches go, Hillary airs her two-minute appeal on local Iowa TV tonight, and in its she says, " I know you've waited a long time for a president who can see you and hear you, and I would like to be that president. So I ask you to caucus for me tomorrow. Put on your coats, call up a friend, and help me change America.  If you stand with me for one night, I will stand up for you every day as your president.  I'll work my heart out to bring the country we love the new beginning it needs.  And I will be ready to start on day one. " Obama and Edwards also have bought time on Iowa TV to air their closing pitches.

*** Was Mike Henry right? While Clinton does have the resources to reboot her campaign if she loses here, the Politico's Roger Simon asks a question that we've wondered as well: "Should Hillary Clinton have skipped Iowa? If she loses the caucus here Thursday, will her campaign wish it had listened to the advice it got last May to take a hike on the Hawkeye state? Back then, Clinton's deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, wrote a 1,500-word internal memo saying Iowa was not worth the effort. 'My recommendation is to pull completely out of Iowa and spend the money and Senator Clinton's time on other states,' Henry wrote. 'If she walks away from Iowa she will devalue Iowa - our consistently weakest state.' Henry's advice was never accepted." By the way, one thing we'd like to consider: Had Obama, and not Clinton received the Des Moines Register endorsement, would the Clinton campaign started pivoting sooner to talking about a national campaign? And the Clinton camp begins the pivoting today with a conference call about the Feb. 5 Georgia primary, not coincidentally, the first primary Bill Clinton won in 1992.

*** John's back, but where is Rudy? McCain comes back to Iowa. With pretty much every political reporter in the world here -- and looking for a fresh story to write or air -- expect McCain's return to Iowa to get major coverage, perhaps even surge-like coverage. A strong third place finish (even if it's 10 points behind second) could be enough to boomerang McCain in New Hampshire. But where's Rudy? We should have made more of this yesterday, but the candidate took two days off the trail -- two days! -- with less than a week to go before New Hampshire. He returns to the trail today to stump in New Hampshire, where he will unveil a new Afghanistan policy that calls for an Iraq-like military surge.

*** Here's Huck… : Up until the last month or so, we've always wondered if Huckabee REALLY wants to win the GOP nomination. After all, it's probably not incorrect to note that he's met with members of the press more than with actual voters. And now, the AP writes, Huckabee is headed to California after a couple of Iowa events this morning to appear on Leno. This coming ONE DAY before the caucuses. "It's just an incredible opportunity to be there, particularly the very first night he's back from the writer's strike," Huckabee said. "Besides, if all else fails and this whole process doesn't work out, maybe he needs a sidekick and I'll be auditioning tomorrow." The Leno gambit might get some big play, but it might also reinforce the image that Huckabee is more interested in getting press than winning the presidency. 

*** Weather update: It is currently 2-degrees outside -- yes, it is THAT cold here -- and it is supposed to warm up to 15 degrees today. But Caucus Day will seem balmy by comparison: It's expected to be mostly sunny in the Des Moines area on Thursday, with a high of 31 and a low of 21. And the weather in the rest of the state will be similar. 

*** On the trail: The final day of campaigning before the caucuses… Biden visits Burlington, Ottuwmwa, Oskaloosa, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids; Clinton stops in Indianola, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Ottumwa, and Des Moines; Edwards campaigns in 12 different cities and towns, ending with a rally in West Des Moines featuring John Mellencamp; Huckabee hits Fort Dodge and Mason City; McCain returns to Iowa, visiting Dubuque, Davenport, and Urbandale; Obama is Davenport, Coralville, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, and Des Moines; Paul -- welcome back to Iowa! -- spends his day in Des Moines; Romney stops in Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, Clear Lake, and West Des Moines; and Thompson Mason City, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport; and Bill Clinton campaigns in Burlington, Dubuque, Waterloo, Mason City, and Des Moines.

Countdown to Iowa: 1 day
Countdown to New Hampshire: 6 days
Countdown to Michigan: 13 days
Countdown to Nevada and SC GOP primary: 17 days
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 24 days
Countdown to Florida: 27 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 34 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 307 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 384 days

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