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Christmas break over for US presidential hopefuls

 Christmas break over for US presidential hopefuls
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After a brief pause for Christmas, the presidential campaigns in the US are back in full gear ahead of the country’s first primary election. All eyes are on the state of Iowa, where the first ballot in a fierce nomination race is held next Thursday.

Among those hoping to be the Democrat candidate is Senator Barack Obama, who wants to be the country’s first black president. Hilary Clinton is ahead in national polls among Democrat voters, but observers are predicting a tight three-way struggle.

Former North Carolina senator John Edwards is hoping a strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, which holds its primary election on January 8, will give him the boost he needs. Iowa’s primary on January 3 is the first in a series of state-by-state ballots, which will decide who represents each party in the presidential ballot next November.

On the Republican side, the former governor of Arkansas and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee has had a boost in the polls in Iowa, a state with a significant number of religious and conservative voters. But some opinion polls say former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is locked in a dead heat with Huckabee.

Also in the Republican contest is the former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, whose long-time lead in the polls has dropped off in recent weeks. Meanwhile, John McCain, a senator from Arizona, is said to have put pressure on Romney’s poll lead in New Hampshire.