The starting gun in the long race for the White House will be fired in Iowa on Thursday, when Democrats and Republicans will be looking for a good start out of the blocks.
Democrat Barack Obama spent the last weekend of the Iowa campaign promising a new kind of politics if he is elected.
He is neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in the vast and sparsely-populated mid-west state. The former first lady has been vaunting her political experience and promises she is ready to govern from day one.
Closing the gap in Iowa is the third Democrat front-runner John Edwards. His campaign may lack the money of Obama and Clinton, but Edwards is keen to point out that he has never accepted money from corporate lobbyists and would ban them from working in the White House.
In the Republican nomination battle for the ‘Tall Corn State’, Mitt Romney has seen a polls lead slip away. His aggressive campaign has included criticism of his party opponents, notably John McCain and Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, struck back at what he sees as negative tactics. Romney’s attacks on him and McCain are, in his own words, “dishonest”.
Former New York mayor Rudolf Giuliani is focussing on later states.
The next stop for both parties however is New Hampshire a week on Tuesday. John McCain has been on the campaign trail early there, while the others have been fighting it out in Iowa.
A key date is February 5, so-called ‘Super Tuesday’, when around 20 states will decide on the Republican and Democrat nominations.