MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - With only hours left in the Iowa presidential campaign, New Hampshire is gearing up for its turn in the limelight, and getting ready for the imminent arrival of candidates, campaign staff and journalists.
The first to hit the ground in the Granite State is Sen. John McCain, who landed before voting in Iowa even began. McCain, who has seen a recent surge in state polls, has already spent most of the week stumping here – he’ll watch the caucus returns from aboard his Straight Talk Express campaign bus.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will kick off this new phase of his New Hampshire campaign with a 2 a.m. rally at the Portsmouth airport.
After spending Thursday morning campaigning in New Hampshire, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani leaves for Florida, but returns Friday afternoon for a town hall in Salem. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will start off with an afternoon campaign in Henniker. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's Friday schedule is still being hashed out, but he will be back in the state Saturday for the ABC/WMUR presidential debates. Rep. Ron Paul's schedule is still in the works.
On the Democratic side, all the candidates are storming the Granite State in time for breakfast. Sen. Hillary Clinton returns with former President Bill Clinton for an early morning event Friday in Nashua. Sen. Barack Obama begins his Friday in Portsmouth with a morning rally, while New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson makes a breakfast stop at the Merrimack in Manchester. Sen. Chris Dodd hits the ground early Friday morning, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been in the Granite State since December 31. But Sen. John Edwards takes the early-bird prize on the Democratic side Friday, with a 6:15 a.m. campaign stop in Manchester.
They’ll find a race that promises to be nearly as tight as Iowa’s. A Franklin Pierce/University/WBZ poll released yesterday found Clinton and Obama neck-and-neck at 32 and 28 percent, with Edwards in third place with 19 percent. The same poll found Republican John McCain leading Mitt Romney 37 to 31 percent, with Giuliani at 10 percent. The poll was conducted December 27-31 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
The GOP race is even closer in a Suffolk/WHDH poll released today, which finds McCain leading Romney 29 to 25 percent. Huckabee has 12 percent in the survey, and Giuliani has 9 percent. But the same poll finds a far different picture on the Democratic side, with Clinton at 39 percent to Obama’s 23 percent and Edwards’ 17 percent. That poll was conducted January 1-2, and has a margin of error for each party subsample of plus or minus 4.38 percent.
–CNN’s Sareena Dalla and Rebecca Sinderbrand