Voters in the midwestern US state of Iowa will have the first say on Thursday in the 2008 race for the US presidency.
Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are urging their supporters to brave cold temperatures and attend tonight's state party nominating caucuses. The caucuses are small community meetings where voters gather to express their preferences for who should be their party's presidential candidate.
Recent polls show a tight three-way race among Democratic contenders, former Senator John Edwards and Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Obama rallied supporters at a late night speech near Des Moines Wednesday, while Edwards wound up a 36-hour bus tour to stress his support for defending the American middle class.
Among Republicans, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is battling former
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for first place. Recent polls suggest Huckabee's lead in Iowa may be slipping under an aggressive campaign by Romney.
Huckabee left Iowa briefly to fly to Hollywood to appear on Jay Leno's popular late-night television talk show, drawing criticism from striking writers for crossing their picket lines. Arizona Senator John McCain also appeared in Iowa Wednesday, amid signs his once failing campaign is gaining support.
Meanwhile, polls show former Republican Senator Fred Thompson and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani vying for a possible third place finish, while Congressmen Ron Paul of Texas and Duncan Hunter of California will also be considered by Republican caucus participants.
Other Democratic contenders include Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
About 200-thousand people are expected to take part in the Iowa caucuses, starting a presidential nominating process that will end with the national party conventions in August and September.
In this report from our colleague Asim Chakrabarti at Des Moines , Presidential candidates Senator Chris Dodd from Democratic Party and Congressman Ron Paul from Republican Party give their comments on Iowa Caucus.