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The Countdown to Iowa: Last Bid to Boost Turnout

The moment has finally come when Iowans will begin choosing candidates for the 2008 presidential race, as they go to the state caucuses Thursday night.

Candidates have been frantically traversing Iowa and reaching out to residents through phone banks, door-to-door campaigning and political rallies. But the candidates have also turned to technology to help them get out the vote in chilly Iowa, sending text messages to potential caucus-goers, or urging them to participate through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) — with help from singer John Mellencamp — rallied Iowans on Wednesday night in Des Moines.

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"Go to the caucus," he urged rally participants. "Stand up, speak out, change this country — show what you're made of, show what your courage is, show what your character is. Let's make America a country all of us are proud of, for our children, for our grandchildren."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has run more than 8,000 television ads, but on Wednesday, the Republican asked for support from a crowd in the tiny Mason City Municipal Airport before taking off in a chartered plane bound for a stop in West Des Moines.

At the headquarters for Republican Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, about 50 volunteers from senior citizens to high school students made thousands of last-minute phone calls to remind Iowans that the caucus doors would open at 6:30 p.m. sharp.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) directly addressed his younger supporters at a local high school, asking them to disprove cynics who say students do not vote.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who largely ignored Iowa through the fall and early winter, had to push his way through an overflow crowd of supporters outside of his Des Moines campaign headquarters.

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"I'm very grateful for you being here. I'm grateful for this expression of support. And I can tell you we've come a long way since I met the 1,203-pound pig named Big Red at the Iowa State Fair — and then enjoyed a pork chop on a stick, followed by a delicious deep fried Twinkie," McCain said.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) posted her appeal on her Facebook profile, which showed 56,214 online supporters Thursday morning.

With such a tight race, campaign workers say they're tracking caucus participants who may need special attention to help them get to the caucuses. The Romney campaign cited one woman with a broken hip who will receive a ride Thursday night to her precinct place.

For Iowans who say they're too busy to attend the caucus, campaigns are offering child care and even the shoveling of snow-covered driveways — anything to make it easier.

From NPR Staff Reports

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