Dems In Dead Heat Before Iowa Caucus

This story was written by Dean Treftz, The Daily Iowan
The leading three Democratic presidential-nomination hopefuls stormed across Iowa, making their last pitches, targeting undecided caucus-goers, and displaying sharpened elbows on the last day of 2007 and first of 2008.

Recent polls of likely caucus-goers have alternatively given leads to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who has surged to make Iowa a true three-way race for Democrats.

Now, all three are loading their schedules with stops across Iowa with precious little time left before Iowans make their decisions to sway still-undecided voters, like Bev Shirbroun and Anni Magyary, both of Ames.

The country needs "somebody who can cross party lines and get things done and someone who's strong enough to fight the corporations," Magyary said outside a Rodham Clinton rally in an Ames hotel Tuesday afternoon.

Magyary, who recently relocated to Ames from Atlanta, said she's split between Rodham Clinton, Obama, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, though she characterized Richardson as "a good vice-president."

Shirbroun, who backed Edwards in the 2004 caucuses, said she is torn between Edwards and Obama following an Edwards rally in Iowa State's Memorial Union later on Tuesday.

She described Edwards as "very motivational" and "inspiring" and liked that she saw both him and Obama oppose corporate greed and lobbyists.

Magyary and Shirbroun are not alone in using these last-minute speeches to vet the leading candidates and come to a decision.

During Dec. 31 stops in Iowa Falls and Ames, Obama asked undecided voters to identify themselves - around one-third of both rooms raised their hands.

After several weeks of polls and media framing the race as a two-person race between Rodham Clinton and Obama with Edwards as a close third, a Quad Cities Times poll put the two men tied for the lead. A Mason Dixon poll had Edwards up by one percentage point.

In fact, only two polls taken after Christmas have shown any candidate with a lead of more than 4 points. One poll gave Rodham Clinton a seven-point advantage while another showed Obama up by the same margin. Further complicating already muddy results is the possibility of skewed polls thanks to Iowans out of town for the holidays.

"On Thursday night in Iowa, in the heartland of America, you're going to say 'enough is enough,' " Edwards told a packed Memorial Union ballroom Tuesday.

Decrying the influence of big business and lobbyists, Edwards exhibited the brand of fiery populism he has become known for.

He told the crowd how his parents and grandparents worked in the North Carolina mill town so he could have a better future.

"I have absolutely no intention to let corporate greed steal that promise from our children or their children," he said.

Edwards' confrontational tone has led to friction with the other two Democrats, especially Obama, who has taken a more conciliatory approach to conservatives. Previously the most prominent attacks had between Obama and Rodham Clinton.

"Anyone who thinks we can just leave [undue corporate and lobbyist influence] alone or that we can just nice them to death is living in never-never land," Edwards said in a clear jab at his rivals.

Both Obama and Rodham Clinton have also increased their criticism of Edwards, continuing their snipes at each other without explicitly naming their opponents.

"Some people think you get change by demanding it, some people think you get change by hoping for it," Rodham Clinton told an Ames crowd Tuesday. "I think you get change by working really, really hard."

In Iowa Falls, Obama similarly made thinly veiled references to his rivals' platforms, saying "chane isn't going to happen because we're yelling at the insurance companies, change isn't going to happen because we're turning up the heat on Republicans."

Obama, like Edwards, went through his stances on most of the issue followed by a request for support come caucus night.

He also made a pitch to supporters who had already pledged to back second-tier candidates.

"Make me your second choice," he said.

Under Democratic caucus rules any candidate who does not receive 15 percent of the caucus-goers in a particular precinct is not considered viable and their supporters must shift to another candidate or go home.

Like Obama and Edwards, Clinton also framed her campaign around the idea that America needs a new direction and that she is the most capable to implement that change.

"You know the Republicans will not give up the White House without a fight," she said to the crowd in Ames. "I've been taking [their] incoming fire for 16 years."

In what was likely her final face-to-face appearance in front of many caucus-goers, Clinton went over her record on health care, women's rights, and the economy before asking them for there support two days later.

"If you will stand up for me, I will be there every day through the campaign and in the White House standing up for you," she said.

With the polls showing a dead heat with one day left, each of the candidates are campaigning like every hour counts.
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE