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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

In Iowa today, presidential candidates of both parties are kicking off the New Year in full campaign mode. One topic of the day is a new Des Moines Register poll that brought good news for Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee and spurred protest from their rivals. We'll hear about the campaigns for the White House in this part of the program. And then, a bit about what is ahead for the current president in 2008.

First, we turn to NPR's David Greene in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He's at the Smokey Row Coffee House and he joins us now.

David, tell us a little bit about this Des Moines Register poll. It looks different from others we've been seeing in recent days.

DAVID GREENE: It does. We have been seeing some tight races in other polls, Michele. But this poll shows that on the Democratic side, Barack Obama is at 32 percent; Hillary Clinton, 25 percent; John Edwards, 24. So Obama has opened a bit of a lead, if you believe this poll. On the Republican side, we see Mike Huckabee. He has now opened a bit of a lead over Mitt Romney. Huckabee at 32. Romney at 26.

NORRIS: In fact, Hillary Clinton is actually ahead in some of those other polls - the CNN and the Zogby poll. How does something like this affect the campaigns? Do they change their behavior based on these polls?

GREENE: Well, that's one of the big questions. A poll like this coming late in the game, you know, there are a lot of undecided voters out there who are thinking about which candidates are viable, which candidates are electable. And you know, even if the poll itself, you could debate whether it's accurate, whether it's not accurate, how it compares to other polls. But the Des Moines Register having big headlines saying Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the frontrunners, I think it's a question as to how that psychologically will affect the people who are going to be caucusing on Thursday. And certainly, that the behavior of the candidate's - a candidate like Barack Obama tries to feed off the energy from the poll. He had a rally in Des Moines this morning, sounding very confident. Here's a bit of what Obama had to say.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): Ten months later, Iowa, you have vindicated my faith in the American people.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: Ten months later, my bet has paid off.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: Ten months later, we stand on the brink of doing something very, very special right here in Iowa.

GREENE: And Michele, the Hillary Clinton campaign has asked a lot of questions about whether this poll was done well, whether it accurately reflects what's going on in Iowa. And Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, put out a memo to reporters, basically saying voters should understand this is a very close race. So they're trying to make sure that voters don't take too much from this poll in the Register.

NORRIS: Now, we've been talking about some of the perceived frontrunners in this race. What about those candidates that are not included in that tier - not considered to be a frontrunner? What does this do to them? How do they handle this?

GREENE: Well, that's - it's an interesting question because you have these other candidates who are in single digits in a lot of the polls, who are still out here, you know, hitting the pavement hard. Driving through snowy roads to get to places and talk to voters. I'm actually here in Oskaloosa. I just listened to Bill Richardson and he's just begging voters not to take their cue from the national headlines. Here's a little bit of what Richardson had to say.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Republican, New Mexico): And my plea to you is this. Don't let the national media decide who's going to be the top winner or who is, right now, the frontrunners. It should be you. And that's why I'm going everywhere. And I've been doing this for a year. Again, this is my second visit here. And I love Iowa's small towns. I got a nice cup of coffee last time I was here. And I hope to do that again.

NORRIS: So he was talking to maybe a few dozen voters here in Oskaloosa. And you know a candidate like Richardson, Michele, he says that if he finishes, you know, third or a strong fourth, he goes into New Hampshire with a little bit of momentum. He hopes he can keep that momentum until we get to some of the western states voting - closer to his state of New Mexico.

Then you look on the Republican side, a candidate like John McCain, who is in third - a distant third - behind Huckabee and Romney. But if he were to finish a strong third, he goes to New Hampshire, where he has more support. And you could see him getting some momentum. So a lot of the candidates is not necessarily looking at the one or two slot coming out of Iowa.

GREENE: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That was NPR's David Greene, speaking to us from the Smokey Row Coffee House in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

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