Skip Iowa? Campaigns Weigh Value of Caucus

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is campaigning in Iowa this Memorial Day weekend, just days after an internal campaign memo suggesting she skip the Iowa caucuses became public.

The campaign immediately dismissed the idea, but Clinton isn't the only candidate wondering how important Iowa will be in the coming election cycle.

One of Clinton's strategists wanted her to bypass the Hawkeye State, which is scheduled to hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and instead spend time and money in more influential states where she's polling better.

A spokesman told ABC News that Clinton is "110 percent committed to Iowa," and Clinton herself told an Iowa crowd, "I'm going to spend so much time in Iowa, I'll be ready to caucus for myself by the time January rolls around."

"I think the leaked memo inside Clinton's campaign was a stupid move on their part," said David Yepsen, the Des Moines Register's political columnist. "They're in Iowa, they're working hard in Iowa, and for some staffer to be dreaming up scenarios like that ... it was a stupid move."

A stupid move or not, whether to participate in the Iowa caucuses is the kind of strategic question many campaigns are asking behind closed doors.

On the Republican side, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, N.Y., hasn't spent nearly as much time in Iowa as former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Even though Giuliani is still ahead nationally, Romney currently has the lead in Iowa.

Giuliani also hasn't said whether he'll take part in this summer's Iowa straw poll, a rite of passage in the Iowa caucus competition.

Giuliani's reasoning is likely the same as Clinton's, with his team recognizing that he, too, could do better in states that come shortly after Iowa.

With an accelerated primary calendar, the game is changing. In January, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and now Florida will vote first. Then, on an increasingly inflated Super Tuesday, 20 or more states will hold primaries, including such populous places as California, New York, New Jersey and Texas.

But the Iowa debate is decidedly two-sided. Waiting for those states and giving up on Iowa has proven disastrous for some candidates.

In 2004, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate, was late to the game, and so his advisors steered him away from Iowa.

"It turned out to be ... probably the fundamental mistake of the campaign," said Clark.

He warned the 2008 field to avoid being fooled by the evolving primary calendar.

"You could make the case that given the compressed schedule, the momentum in Iowa is even more important," Clark added.

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is banking on that Iowa momentum. He rivals any Democratic candidate as far as time spent in Iowa goes, and so far it appears to be working. Edwards is currently leading his Democratic opponents in the state.

"No one serious about winning the nomination will skip Iowa," said Edwards. "I'm here for the next three days. I have 13 town hall meetings."

Iowa voters, who revel in their political role, say that's the way it should be.

"We're up with everything, and we count," one voter said. "I don't think anyone should skip us."

ABC News' Lindsay Hamilton contributed to this report.

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