The first caucus and primary contests are more than 10 months away, but from Iowa to New Hampshire and as far away as California, the race for the White House is in full sprint this weekend.
For the crowded 2008 presidential field -- chockful of candidates with day jobs -- weekend travel is critical to attracting support and donors, not to mention making headlines in politically strategic states.
The marquee event of the weekend is likely to come Saturday, when Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., takes the stage in Springfield, Ill. -- where he served as a state senator -- and formally launches his much-anticipated bid to become the nation's first black president.
In a speech from the historic Old State Capitol, with echoes of Abraham Lincoln, Obama will have a large audience as he presents himself to a nation that is much more familiar with his chief Democratic rivals, Sen. Hillary Clinton D-N.Y., and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
It is a critical opportunity in Obama's quest to build upon his "rock star" entry into national politics and articulate a specific vision for the country.
After the announcement, Obama heads to Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation caucuses, where he holds a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids and a meet-and-greet in Waterloo.
They'll be no rest Sunday either as he stumps at Iowa State University, attends a hometown campaign rally in Chicago and appears on the CBS News magazine "60 Minutes."
Clinton Comes Back to New Hampshire
Clinton, Obama's main rival for the 2008 Democratic nomination, makes her own headlines this weekend, traveling to New Hampshire for the first time in more than 10 years.
The former first lady was originally scheduled to visit the Granite State last weekend but canceled after the death of her stepfather-in-law.
For Clinton, who is coming off a week of key fundraising meetings in Washington, her visit is an opportunity to do some retail politics in the critical first-in-the nation primary state.
In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader on the eve of her Granite State trip, Clinton acknowledged that despite the efforts of many states to move their nomination contests earlier in the 2008 season, she plans to compete in the New Hampshire presidential primary regardless of when its held, even if the change violates Democratic Party rules and possibly causes the state to lose some delegates at the 2008 convention.
Perhaps that's no shock, as New Hampshire has been good to the Clinton family. In 1992, then-Gov. Bill Clinton, struggling in the polls amid a number of scandals, placed a surprisingly strong second place in New Hampshire, jolting his sagging campaign and propelling the "Comeback Kid" toward the nomination.
The former president's wife, Sen leads the way among Democratic '08ers in several recent New Hampshire polls, and it should be a busy weekend as she works to preserve that advantage.
Clinton travels to Berlin, Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Keene, and is scheduled to leave New Hampshire just one day before Obama makes his first return visit to the state following his popular inaugural visit last December.
Republicans Rumble North, South and West
Several Republican presidential hopefuls are on the campaign trail this weekend, too, making stops that may not garner as much media attention as either Clinton's or Obama's, but are significant nonetheless.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who raised $1.3 million for his White House run in the last quarter of 2006, hopes to expand his campaign war chest by trolling for gold in California.
California, with its moderate Republican voters, could prove to be an important state for "America's Mayor" as speculation mounts that the nation's largest state may move its primary date to early February.
Pundits predict such a move would benefit Giuliani, who is moderate on social issues such as abortion.
Giuliani also speaks to the California state Republican convention Saturday afternoon and will reportedly meet with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sen. Sam Brownback R-Kan., who hopes to emerge as the consensus conservative candidate, meets with activists, donors and elected officials at the GOP's annual Michigan convention before heading to Iowa for some more campaigning there.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., hoping to be the second president from Hope, stumps in South Carolina, and former Wisconsin governor and Bush Cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson makes one of his weekly visits to Iowa this weekend.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts makes his second of three trips in less than a week to his native Michigan on Saturday, where he'll address the Michigan GOP convention.
Romney plans to be back in Michigan Tuesday to officially launch his presidential campaign.