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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On the day after Christmas, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

For many Americans, this is a quiet week between Christmas and New Year's. But it can't be quiet for presidential campaigns in Iowa. The first caucuses in the nation come January 3rd. Even on Christmas Day, the candidates were on the air and online.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADS)

MICHELE BACHMANN: I'm Michele Bachmann.

NEWT GINGRICH: And I'm Newt Gingrich.

RON PAUL: I'm Ron Paul.

RICK PERRY: I'm Rick Perry.

MITT ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney.

RICK SANTORUM: I'm Rick Santorum.

WERTHEIMER: If Iowans feel they've been bombarded by political ads in recent weeks, that's nothing compared to what the next eight days will be like.

Iowa Public Radio's Kate Wells reports.

KATE WELLS, BYLINE: Iowans didn't get much of a break from campaign spots over the weekend. But at least most of them stuck to season's greetings, and used family members to help deliver the message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADS)

CALLISTA GINGRICH: From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'm Callista Gingrich.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I'm Rand Paul. Merry Christmas, and God bless America.

ANN ROMNEY: We just want to take this moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

WELLS: That last one was a Web ad from Mitt Romney's wife, Ann.

For other candidates, the holidays offered a chance to launch a new ad campaign, in some cases using surrogates.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADS)

JIM LIVINGSTON: My name is Jim Livingston. I'm a retired major general.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Governor Perry. He is the best person to serve as commander-in-chief.

WELLS: Texas Governor Rick Perry is trying to regain lost momentum in Iowa with a statewide bus tour and a barrage of prime-time ads. Perry's latest one is titled "President of Honor," and features endorsements from military veterans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: He's one of the most honorable men I've ever met.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's about how we can lead this nation. Rick Perry is that leader.

WELLS: If opposition reaction is any indication, Perry's plan may be working. A new ad from a pro-Romney super-PAC, "Restore Our Future," hammers Perry and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Newt Gingrich supports amnesty for millions of illegals. Rick Perry not only supports amnesty, but gave illegals in-state tuition. Gingrich and Perry: too liberal on immigration, too...

WELLS: For Gingrich, this week will mark a shift, with fresh TV spots and a new message on the stump. He's boasting about his economic chops versus those of the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Other candidates are also looking for a post-Christmas miracle.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has a peppy new ad, which takes the format of a pop-up video. The ad includes a montage of Santorum's family, with text bubbles reminding voters of his conservative record. Perry and Santorum have been struggling, polling below 10 percent, along with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

In recent months, Bachmann has been missing from the TV spot circus. But this week she's getting back on the air, using supporters to deliver her message.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: She says she's not a politician. I like to hear that.

WELLS: With only a week left, it is still not too late to reach Iowans, says Craig Robinson, editor of TheIowaRepublican.com.

CRAIG ROBINSON: I think the ads could help push people one way or the other in the final moments before the caucuses. Hey, it's just like an NBA game, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: It's kind of this slow, leisurely game, and then the last three minutes it's crazy, and it's really what you want to tune into and watch.

WELLS: With more than half of Iowa Republicans telling pollsters they're still uncommitted, these final ads could provide the candidates with a real opportunity to do well in the caucuses.

For NPR News, I'm Kate Wells in Iowa.

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