Clinton, Giuliani Hit the Campaign Trial

Jan. 27, 2007 — -- Although the first votes in the 2008 presidential contest won't be cast for 352 more days, the race is already heating up.

This weekend, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is making her first visit to Iowa as a presidential contender. It's her first trip to the battleground state in three years, and Clinton wants to make a splash.

"I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and making some new friends," she said.

Hundreds of miles away from Clinton on the campaign trail, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani will give the keynote address at New Hampshire's Republican convention today.

While signs of support and media crews follow Clinton to every big event, small-scale personal interaction is important for the senator too. Last night after leaving the airport, Clinton went to a small dinner party at the home of an influential doctor.

"The Iowa caucuses are about as intense, personal, retail, one-on-one politics as you can find really anywhere in the country," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist.

Clinton believes democracy starts with talking to the average Joe.

"I think it's important because of what it represents in our democracy. It is truly grass-roots democracy in action," she said.

But she'll have to compete for attention in Iowa with other presidential contenders. Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., has been to Iowa 17 times since losing the race in 2004, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., got a rock star reception when he showed up last fall.

One Democratic candidate is already well known in the state. Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack took a shot at Obama and Clinton on Friday, calling their Iraq proposals the "continuation of a failed policy." That could incite others to criticize Clinton as well.

"There are a lot of folks who are looking in the mirror and saying, I should be president of the United States," said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institute. "And once one does it, the others follow."

Even Hollywood celebrities are taking sides early. On the eve of Clinton's visit, Elizabeth Taylor tried to donate $100,000 to "Hillary for President." When she found out that was illegal, she sent just over $2,000.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire …

Though Giuliani has not officially announced he is running for president, he doesn't want to be left behind. On Friday, more than 450 people came out to hear him address a local chamber of commerce.

"The people of New Hampshire have a big responsibility," he said. "The idea of having the first primary, it gives the country the benefit of your wisdom."

The weekend swing through Littleton and Manchester is Giuliani's first trip to the Granite State since his misplaced presidential playbook ended up on the cover of the New York Daily News earlier this month.

As embarrassing as that mistake was, it has not derailed Giuliani's candidacy, which five years after 9/11, is still being propelled by his heroism that day.

"He hasn't run for anything since 9/11, But he is frozen in time standing with the president at Ground Zero after 9/11, and that's very helpful to him," said Republican strategist Rich Galen.

A Time magazine poll out this weekend shows Giuliani and Sen. John McCain in a neck-and-neck race for the G.O.P. nomination. Trailing both is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is stumping for votes in Iowa this weekend.

Political observers believe Giuliani, twice divorced and moderate on many social issues, will have a tough in the primaries, where conservative voters tend to dominate the outcome. But there is no candidate running for president as popular as the former mayor.

A new ABC News poll shows 61-percent of Americans view him favorably, making him equal only to Clinton -- Bill Clinton, not Hillary.