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In close races, little time for bubbly

As revelers count the minutes to the new year, candidates count the days to the first voting.

DES MOINES, Iowa - A bit of bubbly, a few verses of "Auld Lang Syne" and candidates, candidates and more candidates.

It's New Year's Eve in Iowa and New Hampshire.

With the caucuses and primary just days away, many presidential candidates are spending every precious minute campaigning - even if it's while voters and the rest of the world ring in the new year with celebrations, not politics, on their mind.

The Democratic and Republican contests in Iowa, on Thursday, and New Hampshire, on Jan. 8, are essentially dead heats. No candidate can afford to take time off, except perhaps for a sip of champagne.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) and former President Bill Clinton will each attend two events in Iowa, then meet for a "New Year, New Beginnings Celebration" in Des Moines.

Among the other Democratic candidates, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina planned to celebrate with staff, supporters and undecided caucus-goers at his campaign offices in Mason City, Iowa. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will wrap a long day of campaigning at an evening rally in Ames, Iowa.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson planned to join volunteers and supporters at a party featuring three local bands at a Des Moines hotel, where he will lead the countdown to midnight and offer a New Year's toast. "Our goal is to have a little fun and charge up and energize supporters for the mad dash to caucus night," Richardson spokesman Tom Reynolds said.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who relocated to Iowa temporarily, planned to celebrate with family, friends, supporters and staff at a party featuring local musicians at a Dubuque restaurant and bar.

"But there's no rest for the weary, because his first event on Jan. 1 is at 8 a.m.," spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware has quieter plans: dinner with his family in Des Moines.

In New Hampshire, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and his wife, Elizabeth, will ring in 2008 with a party and concert at a community-access television station in Manchester. The event, "Resolution for Peace: A New Year's Concert for the Community," is open to the public and will be televised live. Kucinich also will focus on the plight of the area's homeless.

Among Republicans, Sen. John McCain of Arizona will cap a long day of campaigning at a New Year's Eve house party at the Concord, N.H., home of Chuck Douglas, a former congressman and state Supreme Court justice.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, will host an early evening celebration for several hundred friends, staff and supporters at the Wakonda Country Club in Des Moines.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was spending tonight in Iowa with family, his campaign said. Aides said he would go to Des Moines' Hy-Vee Hall with his grandson Parker for family-friendly New Year's Eve activities, then have a late-night dinner celebration with his wife, Ann, son Craig and daughter-in-law Mary.

Rudy Giuliani was mum about his plans. It's a "private celebration," said a spokesman for the former New York mayor. That rules out Times Square at midnight.