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With Iowa and New Hampshire races close, a hustle for turnout

Most polls show a very close race among the top candidates in both parties, so the outcome hinges on which campaigns are best at turning out their supporters.

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The heat is on: Sen. Joseph Biden stopped to hold a child after a speech in Indianola.

Andy Nelson – staff

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The key to the Iowa caucuses may be found in a little blurb on Page 1 of Wednesday's Des Moines Register.

"The forecast for Thursday: temperature in the mid-20s to mid-30s with clear skies," it reads.

For Iowa in mid-January, that's a downright heat wave. And if the skies really stay clear, watch for a potential record turnout of more than 250,000 people in the first nominating contest of the 2008 presidential campaign.

With most polls showing a very close race among the top candidates in both parties, the outcome hinges on which campaigns are best at turning out their supporters. Among the Democrats, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is counting on young voters and independents to caucus for him. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is counting on women and older voters. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is counting on men and on experienced caucusgoers. All three have equal support among union households, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll. And by appearances, it's a tie in organizational strength.

"Given the number of phone calls and people knocking on doors, they're all very active," says Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "I don't think any one organization has any advantage over any other."

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