THE NOTE: Countdown to Iowa

Need any more proof that Iowans get special treatment? ABC's Jake Tapper and Elizabeth Stuart write up the "campus kingmakers," including the 20-year-old University of Iowa junior who "has framed pictures of himself with Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson. On his desk, there are piles of business cards from campaign directors and members of local and national media."

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz previews ABC's Saturday debates in Iowa. "I'm going to put a question on the table, and to the extent that I can, I'm going to disappear," Charlie Gibson tells Kurtz.

"Among other things, Gibson plans to have the candidates seated in a semicircle, the better to foster what he likens to a dinner table discussion," Kurtz writes. "There will be no blinking lights or artificial time limits, with Gibson meting out what he calls 'fair time' based on clocks tracking the candidates' performance. And ABC's strict criteria for participation could mean as few as four contenders of either party onstage -- a crucial winnowing for the first prime-time debate to be carried by a broadcast network this season."

The criteria: "They must finish no lower than fourth in Iowa, or poll at least 5 percent -- either nationally or in New Hampshire -- in one of four most recent surveys."

Those back-to-back presidential debates -- sponsored by ABC News, Facebook and WMUR-TV -- will be held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. Republicans will debate from 7-8:30 pm ET and Democrats will follow from approximately 8:45-10:15 pm ET. The two 90-minute debates, moderated by ABC's Charlie Gibson with questions from WMUR anchor and political director Scott Spradling, will air in primetime on the ABC Television Network.

The deadline for submitting a request for press credentials is Wednesday, January 2. If you would like to apply, email NH.Debates@abctv.com for details.

The kicker:

"I think it would be highly unlikely that he wouldn't run. . . . Unless something extraordinary happens, I expect him in the race." -- Steve Forbes on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-N.Y., one rich-guy-former-presidential-candidate to a (possible) future one, on CNN.

"She's hot, too." -- Mitt Romney, licking his finger making a "tsss" sound to connote some sizzle, referring to his wife, Ann.

"I have to tell you. I've used some really harsh curse words -- the juicy ones." -- Barack Obama, asked to enumerate the differences between himself and Mitt Romney.

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