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Bush operatives moving to primary states

Polls indicate Iowa race a 4-way tie among '04 Dems

President Bush speaks at a fund-raiser Thursday in Atlanta.  His campaign is dispatching reps to Iowa and New Hampshire as the primary season opens.
President Bush speaks at a fund-raiser Thursday in Atlanta. His campaign is dispatching reps to Iowa and New Hampshire as the primary season opens.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign will send a high-profile team of surrogates to both Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming days to train and motivate Republican activists and to "show the flag" in states in which the Democratic presidential race has dominated political debate -- and news media coverage.

Among those headed to Iowa this weekend: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

Bush-Cheney campaign chief Marc Racicot, campaign manager Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, White House political adviser Mary Matalin, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Ohio Congressman Rob Portman and Bush-Cheney campaign operative Ralph Reed also are on tap to travel to Iowa.

Campaign spokesman Terry Holt said the group will take part in training sessions and pep rallies with Republican activists as well as media interviews to "show the flag" at a time most of the attention is on the Democrats. (On the Scene: CNN's Bob Franken in Iowa)

From Sunday through Tuesday, the Bush-Cheney surrogates are scheduled to take part in 80 local talk-radio programs in Iowa.

In New Hampshire the next week, Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- who beat then-Gov. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary -- is among those slated to make campaign appearances for the president.

Giuliani also is slated to participate in the New Hampshire effort, as are Govs. George Pataki of New York and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, along with the campaign and RNC officials.

As the Democratic campaign moves on to the South, maverick Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia is among the surrogates on tap to campaign for Bush. Miller introduced the president at a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser in Atlanta on Thursday, and the Bush-Cheney campaign views him as an effective voice in courting conservative southern Democrats. (Bush's Atlanta visit marked by protests, Bush promotes faith-based programs in Southern swing)

Iowa and New Hampshire are both Bush-Cheney general election targets, as is South Carolina -- a key battleground for the Democrats after New Hampshire.

The higher-profile surrogate campaigning is part of a Bush-Cheney campaign strategy to get more aggressive now that the Democratic campaign is entering its key stretch.

For months the campaign has focused on fund-raising and early campaign organizing.

The campaign is on track to raise at least $170 million before the GOP convention this summer. More than 6,000 activists have taken part in campaign grassroots training sessions geared at identifying and turning out voters come November.

The campaign also has settled on Bush-Cheney county chairmen an chairwomen in 90 percent of the counties in targeted states.

Polls: Race tightening

With three campaigning days left before Monday's caucuses, polls indicated that the Iowa race has tightened into a statistical four-way tie between Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and John Kerry.

Just a week ago, polls showed national front-running Dean and Gephardt neck-and-neck, with Edwards and Kerry trailing. (Gephardt to workers: 'Jobs, jobs, jobs')

In a phone call to CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday night, Dean agreed the race is "essentially a four-way tie." (Latest CNN Election Express line dispatches)

"The polls don't mean much at this point. ... it's going to come down to whoever has the best organization," Dean said.

"All we can do now is work our you-know-whats off to get out the vote," he added.

Edwards told crowds in three stops in Iowa he's the only one who's moving in the polls. (Edwards buoyed by gains)

"I've just got to keep the movement going," he said Thursday. "We're all so packed together now there is almost no difference between us."

The most dramatic gains in the Research 2000 Iowa poll released Thursday were for Kerry, now just 1 percentage point among poll respondents behind Dean, and for Edwards, now tied with Gephardt for third place.

That poll's results closely resembled those of the Zogby tracking poll released earlier Thursday that gave Kerry a statistically insignificant 1-point lead over both Dean and Gephardt, with Edwards right at their heels.

In the Research 2000 poll, which has a margin of error of 4 percentage points, Dean led with 22 percent of those polled, Kerry had 21, and Gephardt and Edwards both had 18.

In the Zogby poll, with a 4.5-point margin of error, Kerry had the support of 22 percent of those polled, Dean and Gephardt both had 21, and Edwards had 17.

The other Democrats in the race for the nomination are Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and retired Gen. Wesley Clark. Clark and Lieberman are not competing in the Iowa caucuses.

Other developments

• All eight of the Democratic presidential candidates want to repeal at least some of the tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration, saying that will help fend off crippling budget deficits that could threaten the world's largest economy. But some economists claim it's just not that simple. At the urging of President Bush, Congress has passed tax cuts in each of the past three years that, combined with a recession, a bear market in stocks, terrorist attacks and wars, helped to turn a $127 billion budget surplus in 2001 into a projected deficit of nearly $500 billion in 2004. (Full story, at CNN/Money)

A busload of 50 Howard Dean supporters gets settled before leaving Philadelphia for Iowa early Friday morning.
A busload of 50 Howard Dean supporters gets settled before leaving Philadelphia for Iowa early Friday morning.

• Wesley Clark has received the endorsement of filmmaker-author Michael Moore, an outspoken liberal. "I think we're going to have the best chance with Clark," Moore said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. (CNN Access: Michael Moore)

• On Thursday, the field of candidates shrank to eight when former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun quit the race and threw her support to Dean. With Dean at her side, Braun told supporters that she hopes they "will stand for him with the conviction and courage with which you would have stood for me." Dean said Braun's endorsement would help his caucus showing "because it has nothing to do with poll numbers. It's because Carol has run a campaign which has drawn people to her because they respect her."

• About 400 protesters lined the street across from the King Center in Atlanta as President Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to commemorate the 75th birthday of slain civil rights leader Thursday. Carrying signs and chanting to rhythms pounded from conga drums, members of the crowd resisted efforts by police to move them to a designated protest area about 150 yards from the reflecting pool in front of the simple white marble crypt. (Full story)

-- CNN's John King, Kelly Wallace, Dan Lothian, Bob Franken, Judy Woodruff, Candy Crowley, Deirdre Walsh, Kevin Bohn and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.


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