(CNN) - The presidential candidates themselves may have taken most of the week off, but some independent groups have been busy as elves in the final days of the holiday season, making moves to support – or attack – their candidate of choice in Iowa.
The moves – which come with just over a week to go until the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses – may not be naughty. But most are certainly not nice.
Democrat Barack Obama, who spent the weekend making an issue independent groups running ads on his opponents’ behalf, may now have even more reason to gripe about third-party spending.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - which is backing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton – launched a radio spot in Iowa and New Hampshire attacking the Illinois senator’s health care plan, and revealed plans to create a Web site and send out mailings opposing him.
Meanwhile, Democratic Courage, which was organized just this fall in opposition to Clinton’s White House bid, announced that it had finally raised enough to fund an ad buy on Iowa television attacking her candidacy. The group, which was founded by two supporters of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, has also created holiday-themed Web ads attacking Obama.
Downtown Des Moines, Iowa on Christmas Day. Credit: CNN's Carey Bodenheimer.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Greetings from desolate, downtown Des Moines. The normally bustling burg is quiet, save for the peal of church bells marking Christmas Day. No candidate events, no rallies, and no town meetings are being held anywhere in Iowa, as all of the candidates observe the holiday.
Most Iowans are home with family, while stray journalists haunt the hotel bars (or perhaps a few brave souls haunt the hotel gyms) and the skywalks of downtown Des Moines.
There is one event, though unofficial: Sen. Chris Dodd, his wife and daughters have invited the vagabond press corps to go ice skating this afternoon. And yours truly has heard tale of at least one open Chinese restaurant, and - somewhere - an open I.H.O.P.
–CNN's Carey Bodenheimer
(CNN) - Are the poll numbers of the leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates heading to the North poll or to the South poll? Which candidates do voters think have been naughty? And, which do voters think have been nice?
On Christmas Eve, Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider reports on where things stand in a tight race to for the White House.
Watch Schneider's report and learn how national front-runners Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-New York, are doing in the early voting states.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Call it an early Christmas gift for Hillary Clinton’s campaign: A new Iowa poll seems to show the New York senator with a stunning double-digit lead over her nearest rival among likely Democratic caucus-goers.
Clinton and Obama were neck-and-neck in last week’s American Research Group poll. But in the new survey, conducted December 20-23, she leads the Illinois senator by 15 percentage points, 34 to 19 percent. Obama is now in a statistical tie for second place with former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who has 20 percent of the vote.
According to the poll, Obama has lost some ground among male voters in Iowa: Last week, he led the field with 27 percent support, followed by 21 for Clinton and 19 for Edwards. This week, the leaders are Clinton and Edwards, with 28 and 27 percent support among Democratic men. Obama has 16 percent support, and Joe Biden has 11 percent.
As Hillary Clinton appears to be breaking away from the pack, the Republican race in Iowa may be tightening up. A week ago, an ARG poll placed Mike Huckabee over Mitt Romney by an 11-point margin among likely Republican caucus-goers, but the latest poll by the group puts the two back in a statistical tie, 23 to 21 percent. John McCain has 17 percent of the vote, Rudy Giuliani has 14 percent - and Ron Paul has 10 percent in the latest poll, up from 4 percent last week.
Like Obama, the poll indicates that Huckabee’s support among male voters in Iowa may be slipping. Last week, Huckabee had 31 percent support among Republican men; this week, he and Rudy Giuliani are tied at 20 percent. John McCain and Mitt Romney both have the support of 17 percent of the GOP’s likely male caucus goers.
The most recent ARG polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The polls were conducted over the phone, and had a sample size of 600 likely Democratic and 600 Republican caucus-goers living in Iowa, respectively.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand
NEW YORK (CNN) - Christmas came early this year for Rudy Giuliani, who told reporters Monday that his doctor has said his recent PSA test results are zero or negligible - which means that he remains cancer-free.
Earlier this month, Giuliani underwent a routine test to check his PSA levels. Elevated PSA levels can indicate the presence of prostate cancer a condition the former New York City mayor suffered several years ago.
The Republican presidential candidate, who made a stop at New York¹s Mother Hale Learning Center to read to children, has spent the past few days answering questions about the state of his health. The former mayor was admitted to the hospital briefly Wednesday after suffering what he described as an excruciating headache.
–CNN's Julie O'Neill and Mary Snow contributed to this report
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day at CNNPolitics.com. All Politics, all the time.
Making News Today:
Four polls, no frontrunners, and a partridge in a pear tree
Twas Christmas morning
And all through the land
Little children are asking
Where does this race stand?
In the national poll of polls for the Democrats - an average of four national polls taken in the last two weeks - Hillary Clinton has a healthy 19-point lead over Barack Obama, with John Edwards running third.
But the Democratic race looks very different in the early states.
Four Iowa caucus polls average out to a slight Obama lead over Clinton. In fact, it's a very close three-way race in Iowa - Obama 30, Clinton 28, Edwards 22. Any of them could win. And the four latest New Hampshire polls show Clinton narrowly ahead of Obama. Two polls show Clinton leading, one shows Obama slightly ahead, one shows a tie in New Hampshire. Again, anything could happen.
Clinton's frontrunner status looks shaky in those key early voting states.
Rudy Giuliani's ahead if you average the four latest national polls. Four other candidates - Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson - all bunched together behind Giuliani.
But again: in the early states, a different story entirely.
In Iowa, Huckabee's ahead, with Romney running second. Giuliani's a weak fourth. In New Hampshire, Romney's ahead, with McCain breathing down his neck. Giuliani's third. And Huckabee? A weak fourth in the Granite State.
So are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani the frontrunners? Only in national polls. But there's no national primary. Full Story
Now you can take the Best Political Team with you anytime, anywhere. Subscribe to the “Best Political Podcast” for extensive coverage of the 2008 election. Best Political Podcast
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
Compiled by Lindsey Pope and Jonathan Helman
CNN Washington Bureau
New York Times: Democrats Try to Rein In Fees on Consulting
It was the spring of 2004, and Senator John Kerry had just secured the Democratic presidential nomination. But as huge sums of money began pouring into his campaign, his top strategists had more on their minds than just getting ready for a tough race against President Bush.
New York Times: When Private Struggles Become Public Displays
…as the Republican and Democratic candidates engage in personal politicking in Iowa and New Hampshire, holding town-hall-style meetings open to everyone, they are often confronted with the most intimate of problems from the people who come out to see them.
Des Moines Register: Dodd Mixes Politics, Holiday Service
Chris Dodd played Santa on a Christmas Eve visit in Iowa, filling boxes of goodies for shipment to Iowa soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan before slipping into the more familiar role of presidential candidate.
Chicago Tribune: 'Twas the Week Before Caucuses
Sarah Huckabee, daughter of the Republican presidential candidate and Iowa front-runner Mike Huckabee, decided along with the staff of four that runs the Huckabee campaign office in Iowa to remain through the holiday. "If one of us is going to stay, all of us are going stay," she said, near a banner that read "Merry Christmas and a Huckabee New Year."
Politico: Huckabee Runs As GOP Rebel
To spend a day with Mike Huckabee on the campaign trail is to hear echoes of his three insurgent predecessors.
Chicago Tribune: Romney's Big Ad Buys Don't Pre-Empt Foes
As of Dec. 16, the Romney campaign had spent $16 million on television advertising …Yet the former Massachusetts governor is struggling in national polls against Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, who had spent $600,000 and $2.3 million respectively, according to the same data.
LA Times: Romney's Running Mate - His Father
Mitt Romney's biggest personal successes are in Massachusetts, where he attended graduate school at Harvard, raised his family, ran Boston's Bain Capital investment group and was elected governor. But it is here in auto-heavy Michigan where Romney cut his teeth in business and politics.
Quad City Times: Will First-Time Caucus Goers Show Up?
Hattie Irving, an 81-year old Iowan, has never participated in her state's presidential caucuses, but she plans to this time _ to support Hillary Rodham Clinton.
AP: Dems, GOP Set Gubernatorial Money Records
The major parties are raising record amounts of cash as they prepare for gubernatorial campaign showdowns in 11 states next year.
On the Trail:
Compiled by Lauren Kornreich and Katy Byron
CNN Washington Bureau
Candidates are opening gifts, drinking eggnog, and getting some much needed rest before the sprint to Iowa.
* The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook
* The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook