The Final Bid: What the Candidates Had to Say Before Iowa Finally Stopped Listening

ScarJo
Photo: Photo Courtesy Open All Night

Today, Iowa is all about the last word. Encouraged by a recent favorable opinion poll in the state, McCain returned for a brief trip, along with Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas. All three were harping on McCain's foreign-policy experience. “Call me old-fashioned, but I think foreign-policy experience matters,” Graham said. “And if it does matter, then the choice is easy.” “I know Pakistan, I know Israel," explained McCain at a different event. "I know these countries, I know their leaders." [NYO]

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton sent out talking points to surrogate speakers drumming up support across the state. They include bullet items like "Change isn’t something you just demand, or hope for, it is something you work for, and [Hillary] has been working for it all her life," and "Hillary has stood up to the Republicans and beat them twice in landslides." [Time]

Hillary's most powerful surrogate, however, was busy still lowering expectations for her. "I didn't win a race until I got to Georgia," a casually dressed Bill Clinton told reporters. "You just got to keep going. It is a long process." [Politico]

Obama's talking points, given to his surrogates, sounded similar: "Everyone in this race is talking about change, but Barack Obama is the only candidate with a record of actually taking power away from lobbyists, bringing Republicans and Democrats together to do things like expand health care and provide tax relief, and telling people not just what they want to hear, but what they need to hear — like when he opposed the war in Iraq from the start," says one. "Polls show that Obama attracts more Independents and Republicans than any other candidate," reads another. [Time]

Of course, a lingering image for potential Obama supporters will no doubt be the presence of lithe actress Scarlett Johansson. That, at least, might bring some of the boys to the yard. [Open All Night]

Mike Huckabee, who returned from California where he appeared last night on the Tonight Show, took the opportunity to slip in one last jab at his rival, former hedge-fund manager Mitt Romney. "People would rather elect a president who reminds them of the guy they work with, not that guy who laid them off," he said in Burlington, Iowa. [NYT]

Fred Thompson had to spend some of the day denying the veracity of a story that said he was going to drop out of the race if he did poorly in the caucus today. "I can't put enough adjectives in front of the 'deny' to accurately describe how vehemently I'm denying the story," fumed campaign spokesman Rich Galen. [National Review]

John Edwards posted an interesting statistic on his blog. A poll showed him behind Clinton by one percent and ahead of Obama by 7 percent. But if you eliminated the other candidates (who might not get the 15 percent threshold to be counted) and forced people to pick their second choice, Edwards shoots ahead of the other two by 7 percent, pulling in nearly half of the votes. Twisted logic, but with the convoluted caucus process, that may be what today calls for. [JohnEdwards.com]

Romney just stuck with what he does best: slightly off-putting flattery. "The soil is black. I mean, dark beautiful soil," he said last night to a crowd in Des Moines. "The corn grows tall and dark green and I said to myself: 'God must love Iowa.'" [Guardian]