Obama leads latest Iowa poll

Presidential contenders rang in the 2008 election year with near-constant campaigning on Monday as a poll showed Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee leading their rivals with three days remaining before the Iowa caucuses.

Anonymous phone calls and a negative campaign commercial that vanished into thin air also spiced the race, and not even New Year’s Eve was off-limits to campaign oratory.

One political stunt too many?

Mike Huckabee may have finally gone too far.

After running an unconventional, surprisingly strong and sometimes strange race to the top tier of the Republican presidential campaign, the former Arkansas governor topped himself Monday with an eyebrow-raising campaign stunt.

He called a news conference to unveil a negative ad that he had just withdrawn from Iowa television stations because, he told a room full of journalists recording the ad, he had a sudden aversion to negative politics. Quite a convenient epiphany.

Stepping up the pace

New polls Sunday showed Democrats waging a desperate single-digit struggle four days before Iowa’s leadoff US presidential nominating contest, and Republican Mitt Romney on the rebound.

Former Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards put on a spurt in one new survey, and Hillary Clinton led another, with Barack Obama closing out a nervy dead heat heading into Iowa’s critical caucuses on Thursday.

Going on the attack

Mike Huckabee says John McCain is a hero. McCain says Huckabee is a good man. And they both seem to agree on this: Mitt Romney is neither.

The Republican rivals joined Sunday to criticize Romney — McCain in New Hampshire called him a waffler and Huckabee in Iowa questioned whether he can be trusted with the presidency, a sign of Romney’s strength in both states.

For 2008 the goal is win, win, win

A bit of bubbly, a few verses of Auld Lang Syne and candidates, candidates and more candidates. It’s New Year’s Eve in Iowa and New Hampshire.

With the caucuses and primary just days away, many presidential hopefuls are spending every precious minute campaigning — even if it’s while voters and the rest of the world ring in the New Year with celebrations, not politics, on their mind. The Democratic and Republican contests in Iowa, on Thursday, and New Hampshire, on Jan. 8, are essentially dead heats.

No candidate can afford to take time off, except perhaps for a sip of champagne.

Romney’s candor gap

As a presidential contender, Mitt Romney has the looks, the money and the campaign machine. He also has something of a candor gap.

When confronted with questions that might conflict with his message of the day or political record, the Republican candidate has shown a tendency to bob and weave or simply dismiss history. He has done so all year, providing an easy target for his opponents.

“If you aren’t being honest in obtaining the job, can we trust you if you get the job?” Romney rival Mike Huckabee asked on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Can Montana help Ron Paul?

Supporters of long-shot presidential hopeful Ron Paul say the Montana Republican Party’s quirky caucus rules could create an opening for their candidate that other states don’t offer.

Under the “closed caucus” system recently adopted by the Montana GOP, voting in the Feb. 5 caucus will be limited to about 3,000 Republicans who hold party posts, such as members of Congress, statewide officeholders and precinct captains. That includes hundreds of volunteer precinct posts that have long been vacant and that some candidates are now scrambling to fill with supporters.

Shuffling the pawns in Iowa

“You want to talk why Iowa is three-dimensional chess, it is the ultimate. I think it’s more five-dimensional chess, if there’s such a thing … ” — NBC political director Chuck Todd put it well on Meet the Press last Sunday.

Here’s what we think he means.

Iowa caucus strategy isn’t as simple as moving around a few pawns and trying to rook the fellow on the other side of the board.

There are multiple games on multiple tiers. “Winning” is not a simple as “winning.”

Presidential battles heat up

White House foes renew battle Saturday on multiple fronts, through snow piled prairies and a blizzard of political ads, a tantalizing five days before their fates are first put to voters.

Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, locked in a cut-throat struggle ahead of Thursday’s leadoff Iowa nominating caucuses, are straining to outdo one another with clarion calls for political change.

Fine-tuning the campaign rhetoric

After a year of position papers and policy speeches, handshakes in the summer heat and winter snow, advertising that floods mailboxes and TV screens, and too many bites of pork on a stick at too many county fairs, it’s time.

For the final arguments.

Heading into the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, the presidential candidates are boiling down their messages.

On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are in a three-way tie in the polls. Among Republicans, it’s a close race for first between two former governors — Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.