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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

(Soundbite of music)

LAURA CONAWAY, host:

Hey, good morning, everyone.

It's on your mark, get set, go, in Iowa. Presidential candidates have just a few short days to dredge up and nail down every last bit of support before voters go and both parties head through the caucuses on January 3rd.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is at the top of the polls, but her chief rival, Barack Obama, continues to sway undecideds with his inspirational approach to the stump.

Mr. MICHAEL ANDERSON: I was up in the air, either Hillary or Obama and after -and I've seen both of them live. I want to just give them, you know, the - see how they are in person. And he swayed me.

CONAWAY: That was Democratic voter Michael Anderson, who traveled to Newton Senior High School in Newton, Iowa, so he could hear the candidates in person. Too bad for Obama, he's from Missouri, so he won't be voting this week.

On the Republican side, one poll shows Mitt Romney hanging on to the lead by six-tenths of a single point. The former Massachusetts governor has been bashing rivals, Senator John McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. On the talk shows yesterday, Huckabee fought back.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Meet the Press")

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Republican Presidential Candidate): Mitt Romney is running a very desperate and, frankly, a dishonest campaign. He's attacked me - and yesterday or Friday, I guess it was, he launched then just a broadside attack against Senator McCain. Now, Senator McCain and I are rivals for the presidency. But I've said it on many occasions, I'll say it again here today, Senator McCain is an honorable man, and I believe he's an honest man. I believe he's a man of conviction. And I felt like that - when Mitt Romney went after the integrity of John McCain, he stepped across a line. John McCain's a hero in this country. He's a hero to me.

CONAWAY: That was Mike Huckabee on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Word that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will attend a bipartisan confab of politicians is fueling speculation that he'll make a play for the presidency as an independent. The meeting on January 7th is organized by heavy hitters from both sides of the aisle, including William Cowen, Chuck Hagel and Sam Nunn.

Despite the buzz about a possible candidacy, Mayor Bloomberg continues to say he's not interested in running. Bloomberg is no stranger to bipartisanship. He was a lifelong Democrat before switching parties to run for New York City mayor.

Later in the show, Jim Vandehei of Politico.com will look ahead to Thursday's big vote in Iowa.

2007 is ending on a sour note at the San Francisco Zoo. That's from the zoo's hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. A Siberian tiger escaped its enclosure at the zoo last week and killed one man and mauled two others. Now, the paper reports a steady stream of high-profile resignations under new director Manuel Mollinedo. The Chronicle says the director declined to talk about problems employees cite, ranging from the theft of a koala bear to the molesting of sheep.

As the AP's Jan Sluizer reports, officials of the zoo have closed the facility while a probe into the tiger tragedy continues.

Ms. JAN SLUIZER (Reporter, Associated Press): Chief Heather Fong said that the zoo was closed to search for possible additional victims, and to diagram and photograph the crime scene in daylight. Fong noted that the primary focus was to find out if there had been criminal conduct involved with the tiger's escape.

Chief HEATHER FONG (San Francisco Police): Our investigation has found absolutely no link to any intentional release.

Ms. SLUIZER: The zoo is scheduled to reopen January 3rd.

CONAWAY: That was AP's Jan Sluizer.

And in sports, the Chicago Bears spoiled the New Orleans Saints' last hope for the play-offs, beating them 33 to 25 last night.

Meanwhile, two teams on the bubble, the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Titans, eked their way into the play-offs.

Later in the show, Bill Wolff, our own Monday Morning Quarterback, will set the play-off scene.

That's the news for now. Remember, the news is always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

CONAWAY: Alison, back to you.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Thank you, Laura.

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