WASHINGTON (CNN)–Look for more red-hot scrutiny of Republican Mike Huckabee this week, the underdog turned top dog in Iowa.
A Newsweek poll shows Huckabee now has a whopping 22 point lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa - other polls don't show as big a Huckabee lead, but with a little over three weeks to go until the lead-off contest, the former governor of Arkansas is now the one to beat.
Expect Huckabee to be a target when the GOP candidates square off in the Des Moines Register debate on Wednesday.
Romney, in particular, will be trying to regain his footing in Iowa, where he once enjoyed a comfortable lead.
Thursday, it's the Democrats' turn to debate in Des Moines - with the three-way slugfest between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards taking center stage.
Clinton and Obama refocus on the Hawkeye state after dueling weekend events in South Carolina featuring superstar surrogates: Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
But no one is bigger than Republican Ron Paul's new campaign vehicle: A blimp - floating up the Eastern seaboard this week - headed right for the first in the nation primary state of New Hampshire.
-CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CNN)–Not being a meteorologist, I can't explain how it rains when the temperature outside is a mere 11 degrees (The Weather Channel says it feels like 2 degrees, to which I can attest).
Packed practically to the rafters, Oprah fans and Obama supporters braved the not un-daunting elements, and showed up by the thousands at the U.S. Cellular Center on Saturday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The crowd, a broad mix of ages, races and ethnicities, was equally rapt by both the candidate and the talk-show host and seemed ebullient even while waiting for the headliners – of course, just being inside on a night like tonight is cause enough for celebration.
The event, Sen. Obama and Ms. Winfrey's second of the day, touched on a broad array of themes including: education, housing foreclosures, health care, racial and religious divides in the U.S. and the "politics as usual" fatigue.
Ms. Winfrey strode the stage, urging the crowd on by repeating the mantra, "the moment is now" – the introduction of Obama culminated with Oprah saying simply, "He is the one."
As for the candidate himself, Senator Obama began by joking with the crowd saying "you know it's a good program when I am the third best speaker".
He also had the crowd laughing and cheering by referring to his distant relation to Vice President Dick Cheney. The Senator cracked, "everyone has a crazy uncle".
After being introduced by Michelle Obama, Winfrey took the stage to the strains of Aretha Franklin and immediately referenced the weather, saying that on the road between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids they "were slipping and sliding" and she assumed that no one would be at the event. Oprah said she'd "be home in my footsie pajamas" if it wasn't for Barack Obama.
–CNN Producer Carey Bodenheimer
Bill Clinton will be campaigning for his wife in South Carolina just a day before Obama has Oprah Winfrey there for a large event.
(CNN) - It will be the battle of the rock star surrogates this weekend, with a last minute trip by former President Bill Clinton scheduled for South Carolina as Oprah Winfrey campaigns with Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Clinton's appearance for his wife Senator Hillary Clinton was a surprise, added amid saturation media coverage of Obama's three-state swing.
The former President told reporters at a stop in New York City Friday the trip was a "coincidence", though he'll be in South Carolina the day before Obama and Winfrey stop in Columbia.
During a day of appearances in Charleston, Clinton will speak on health care disparity, attend a forum on the subject, visit patients and families at a Children's Hospital and stop at a downtown Charleston market.
The dueling trips come as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama compete for a bigger share of the critical African-American vote in South Carolina, where the former president remains a popular figure.
Hillary Clinton campaigns Saturday in Iowa, as Obama and Winfrey hold two rallies in Iowa.
–CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Before the Oprah-bama fest began in Des Moines, her best-friend and talk show host Gayle King, attempted to quietly slip into the rally. She walked up to the set of bleachers behind the stage and asked some women if she could scoot in. Within seconds cameras were clicking and fans were yelling. King spent the speech on the first row of bleachers chatting up supporters, listening and and mingling with fans.
- CNN Senior Producer Sasha Johnson
(CNN)–Democrat Barack Obama is banking on some star power this weekend. Actually, make that "super-star" power. The Queen of Daytime TV herself..Oprah Winfrey..will appear with Illinois Senator Barack Obama in three key states over the weekend.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – According to the Barack Obama campaign, twenty-three thousand tickets were distributed for Saturday's event with Oprah Winfrey.
The first twelve-thousand tickets were handed out to precinct captains, volunteers, caucus training attendees and people who came into one of the 37 Obama offices around the state to ask for one. The other eleven-thousand tickets were distributed on-line.
- CNN Senior Producer Sasha Johnson
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Now the Best Political Team is portable.
In Friday's Best Political Podcast, journalist Ron Suskind speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the CIA terrorism interrogation tapes destroyed by the spy agency, Bill Schneider reports on the GOP's relationship with Latino voters, and Candy Crowley takes a look at what Oprah Winfrey may be able to do for Sen. Barack Obama. Plus, get a your weekly dose of campaign trail mix.
Click here to subscribe to The Best Political Podcast
(CNN) - The original 18,000-seat arena turned out not to be big enough. So, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is now holding a South Carolina campaign event featuring media superstar Oprah Winfrey in an 80,000-seat football stadium. But, with all the interest in Oprah, could she overshadow the Democratic presidential hopeful she is trying to help?
In today's Race to '08 audio podcast, CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley talks with CNN Radio's John Lisk about Obama's upcoming campaign events featuring Winfrey.
Oprah's appearance could help raise Obama's profile in South Carolina.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Citing "overwhelming excitement," Barack Obama's campaign in South Carolina is out of free tickets for this weekend's rally with Oprah Winfrey, a signal that Oprah's impact could be significant in this state where Obama is still trying to introduce himself to primary voters.
Though Oprah's appeal certainly transcends race and class, black women are proving to be a key subset of voters in South Carolina, and Oprah's presence on Sunday could help raise Obama's profile in a state where Sen. Hillary Clinton is still more well-known.
"What this does, is it takes somebody who ten months ago most people in South Carolina had no clue who he was, and with the media attention surrounding Oprah, it puts him front and center," said Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon.
"Oprah is not going to change people's minds on her own, but Oprah makes Obama salient. So if he pulls off an upset in Iowa, suddenly he is the forefront of everyone's mind and he has the momentum. And he can use it to springboard him through in South Carolina. That's what it can do."
The Obama campaign wants this to be a huge event: The rally will take place at the Colonial Center, an arena here that seats 18,000 people. Oprah and/or Obama fans were camping out in sleeping bags outside Obama headquarters in Columbia on Saturday morning, waiting for tickets.
Assuming every ticket-holder shows up, there will be more people at the arena for a political rally than for an average University of South Carolina basketball game, which aren't usually sell-outs.
For those that didn't get tickets in time, the campaign says there is a waiting list. Obama and Oprah will also campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire this weekend.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Oprah will officially hit the campaign trail for Obama.
(CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama dropped the hint last week, but Monday his presidential campaign made it official: talk show host Oprah Winfrey will join him on the campaign trail next month.
The campaign said Oprah will make four appearances with the Democratic presidential candidate in three key early states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The stops will be the weekend of December 8th and 9th, in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Manchester and Columbia.
Winfrey has made no secret of her support for Obama, who lives in her hometown of Chicago. She officially endorsed the Illinois senator earlier this year and hosted a star-studded fundraiser for him in southern California in September, bringing big bucks and plenty of media exposure.
Her appearance comes as Obama fights with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the critical women's vote. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the two separated by just a point among women in Iowa.
- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk