|Hillary Clinton told crowds that it is "pick a president" time.|
Many prominent politicians, particularly Democrats, have refrained from endorsing a presidential candidate. Are they drowning in a sea of good options, or terrified of making the wrong call?
The absence of these major voices is one of the more remarkable features of the 2008 campaign and may be contributing to the closely contested battles on both sides in Iowa, with the caucuses just days away.
Among the missing are two former presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry. After endorsing Howard Dean in the 2004 race and watching his candidacy go down in flames, Gore may not be eager to get involved again. No one seems to have a clue which way Kerry may be leaning, although former running-mate John Edwards is definitely not on the list.
As for Iowa lawmakers, Senator Tom Harkin is lying low, although his wife supports Hillary Clinton. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, declared long ago that the GOP field was simply too muddled to pick a side.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy has so many Senate colleagues running that it would be like picking which child you love best. Senator Russ Feingold, a hero to the antiwar left, has his own presidential ambitions to protect.
Clinton generally skipping Q&A sessions in campaign
As Democrat Hillary Clinton traveled through Iowa last week, she told crowd after crowd that it was "pick a president" time. At most of the events, though, that process did not include accepting audience questions.
Before the campaign's brief Christmas break, the New York senator had been setting aside time after speeches to hear from the audience. But generally - and in contrast to most other candidates - she dispensed with public Q&As after returning to the trail Wednesday.
Campaign aides said her jammed schedule in the buildup to Thursday's caucuses precluded the extra time for exchanges with her listeners. But the no-questions policy didn't sit well with some of the Iowans who came to see her speak.
"I was a little bit underwhelmed," said Doug Rohde, 46, as he left a midweek rally at a fire station in Denison. "The message was very generic - and no questions."
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Edwards brings doughnuts to woo undecided voters
Democratic presidential contender John Edwards spent one morning last week engaged in some real retail politics - knocking on a handful of doors in Nashua, N.H., offering Christmas cookies, doughnuts, and coffee (carried by his staff).
Edwards canvassed the neighborhood of one of his supporters, lawyer William H. Barry III, who said stops were being made only at the homes of undecided voters. But the advance work by the Edwards staff apparently needs some tweaking.
At one house, the former North Carolina senator ran into some straight talk from Jim Mail, a Republican who is not undecided. He's supporting Senator John McCain. But he had some tips for Edwards, anyway.
With a crush of reporters in his front hallway, Mail told the candidate he faced steep hurdles in New Hampshire from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He said Edwards's challenge "is to differentiate yourself [from Obama and Clinton]." If the pair "eat each other alive," Mail said, then there might be an opening for him.
LOS ANGELES TIMES