SNEAK PEEK: Thompson Hits Iowa

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After weeks of dipping his toe into the presidential waters, Fred Thompson may be putting one whole foot in Friday when he makes his first visit to Iowa. And what better place to start than the State Fair in Des Moines.

With his family by his side, the former senator turned TV star will make the rounds, check out pork on a stick, fried Twinkies and appropriately fawn over the life-size cow made of butter.

ABC News' Christine Byun reports that Thompson will start his day with a meeting with about 20 "conservative activists" in Des Moines.

Thompson will meet with Iowans at 1:45 pm ET followed by a session on the Register's "Soapbox" at 2:15 pm ET, a 3:15 pm ET tour of the fairground where "cameras are encouraged to get B-Roll" before he rounds out the day with even more glad-handing.

The Hawkeye state visit makes a lot of sense for the "Southern-fried Reagan" because he's hoping to prove to Republicans he's the authentic conservative in the race.

Thompson, who certainly doesn't yet have the advantage of a strong Iowa operation like Mitt Romney, may not be in that bad of a position on the eve of his inaugural trip. He's not even entered the race and he already places third among likely GOP caucus-goers according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Romney leads the pack with 26 percent, Giuliani finishes a point better than Thompson with 14 percent.

Could this be the turning point in the story of the '08 Iowa Republican caucus, a story which has been dominated by Romney?

Over in the Land of Lincoln, it looks like the end of the political road for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert who will announce Friday that he is retiring from Congress. Hastert, the former high school teacher and wrestling coach who was first elected in 1986, will make remarks at the Kendall County Courthouse in his hometown of Yorkville at 11:00 am ET

It's unclear whether Hastert will finish out his term or retire sometime before the end of the year. Hastert served as Speaker for eight years, the longest a Republican has ever served as Speaker of the House.

On the presidential trail. . .

Mitt Romney raises coin in New York's Hamptons.

Rudy Giuliani meets, greets and eats in the Granite state with a 9:30 am ET town hall with local residents in Merrimack, a 12:00 pm ET Bar-B-Que in Amherst, followed by meet and greets in Manchester, New Boston, Peterborough and Milford.

John McCain spends his day in New York with no public schedule but will do a series of radio interviews with ABC affiliates to promote his latest book, "Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them."

Mike Huckabee is in New Hampshire for a 6:00 pm ET spaghetti dinner hosted by the Manchester Republican Committee.

As runner-up Huckabee tries to topple Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll winner Mitt Romney in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, the former Arkansas governor is selling his "sensitivity" to people's everyday economic concerns more than any specific policy, ABC News' Teddy Davis and Leigh Hartman report.

As for the Dems. . .

Hillary Clinton is in Chappaqua, N.Y. with no public events.

Her husband, Bill, the former prez, attends the 10th Anniversary Lake Tahoe Forum at Incline Village's Sierra Nevada College. The forum is commemorating the 10 years of annual political summits for Lake Tahoe. President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore established the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee after the initial Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum in 1997.

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