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Hopefuls warm up to Iowa

Democratic presidential hopefuls warmed up for yesterday's big New Hampshire debate by trying to impress about 1,000 activists Saturday at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids.

While the focus was on policy positions, the dinner also gave candidates the opportunity to talk about how Iowa has practically become their second home and to show how much organization they've mustered in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating season with its caucuses.

As part of the effort to sway backers, volunteers woke in the early hours to plaster campaign signs in Cedar Rapids and on the city's outskirts. Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina was ushered into his hotel by a raft of supporters and a marching band.

Senator Hillary Clinton of New York said it was her eighth trip to the state and joked that she has spent "so much time in Iowa I'll be able to caucus for myself before it's over." (AP)

Better late than never?
Former Senator Fred Thompson said his ambivalence until now about the presidency might make him more fit for the White House than others.

"If a person craves power for the sake of power, if he craves the office for the sake of holding the office, he's got his priorities mixed up," Thompson said in an interview. "It's a desire to do something, not to be something."

The Southerner with Hollywood star power and mostly conservative credentials fares well in national polls, but he would enter the Republican race some six months after the three poll leaders. But Thompson belittles the notion that candidates can compete only if they have had a campaign staff in place for months and if they raise $100 million this year.

"I'm too late to follow those rules even if I wanted to, and I don't want to," Thompson said. "At the end of the day, the people have to be receptive to you and your message. " (AP)

Learning the ropes
A Yale graduate quit a finance job in New York to volunteer for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. On Friday, 25-year-old Chris Wyant was among 38 people who graduated from the campaign's new training program for volunteers and interns: "Camp Obama."

But don't look for bonfires or singalongs at this Chicago summer camp. Here, campers gather in sparsely decorated rooms in a downtown office building, where they learn more about Obama and how to galvanize support for him.

The program received more than 1,200 applications for about 350 spots, said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The camp, which will run for seven weeks, will train about 50 volunteers a week. (AP)

Manchester debate coverage:
 CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK: Hopefuls warm up to Iowa
Editorial and opinion:
 GLOBE EDITORIAL: Iraq takes all the oxygen
 JOAN VENNOCHI: The missing candidate
 JEFF JACOBY: Short on substance
 DERRICK Z. JACKSON: The losers? Innocent civilians