THE NOTE: Countdown to Iowa


Here's a New Year's countdown to cut through the Iowa fog:

Three . . . different Democrats could win the caucuses.

Two . . . Republicans could win, and two (or more) could drop out (though only one seems to want to already).

One . . . very wealthy mayor who hasn't been trudging through Iowa could hollow out all the primary victories by early spring.

But first -- we're going to miss 2007.

We're going to miss Rudy Giuliani giving himself a well-earned two days off for New Year's. (At least he'll be warm on caucus night.)


We're going to miss watching Mitt Romney have to reap what he sowed. (Whether you find him ironic or Seinfeldian depends on whether you live in New Hampshire or Iowa.)

We're going to miss Joe Biden comments that come thisclose to stepping over the line of propriety.

We're going to miss billionaires dropping big hints about whether they're getting into a big race. (Actually, take that back -- we think we're going to have Mayor Michael Bloomberg to contend with for a while.)

We're going to miss high-profile surrogates dissing Iowa.

(And we'll even miss the ways that Chelsea Clinton disses the press -- even 9-year-old members of the fourth estate.)

We're going to miss waiting for the Des Moines Register's poll numbers to provide the last meaningful figures before the caucus. (And we hope and expect to see those numbers drop a few hours before the ball.)

And we're just plain going to miss Fred Thompson. (Though he's not, apparently, going to miss us -- has a candidate ever so jubilantly set himself up for a way out of the race?)

As we prepare to flip the calendar, the chaotic Democratic field isn't showing any signs of sorting out. If there's anything new left to say, the Democrats aren't yet saying it as they close (generally) how they started: talking change in all its various slices.

"With three Democrats scrambling for the lead in Iowa heading into the voting on Thursday, the candidates tried to paint their opponents as inadequate for the challenges facing the nation," Patrick Healy and Julie Bosman write in The New York Times.

Former Senator John Edwards, in particular, continued that line of attack against Senator Barack Obama, suggesting that he was too 'nice' to fight and win against special interests and big corporations."

And Healy and Bosman refer to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., as the "third leading Democrat here," as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was out "knocking her husband by name for suggesting that an Obama presidency would be a gamble for the nation."

As for that husband, he tells ABC's Kate Snow that polls don't really matter anymore, and he sounds ready for the caucusing to begin even before his New Year's Eve rally with his wife at the state capitol in Des Moines.

"The crowds are large. The people are listening. All you can ask for is a fair hearing. And I think the people of Iowa have given it to Hillary, and I'm very grateful," former President Bill Clinton said.

USA Today's Susan Page gets the closing arguments direct from the candidates' mouths. "Clinton said she was 'not asking voters to take me on a leap of faith,' an implicit jab at Obama.

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