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Labor Day Was No Holiday for Candidates

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By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 3, 2007; 8:42 PM

For all the candidates for the White House, Labor Day was an occasion for parades, rallies and other celebrations marking summer's last holiday. There were hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream -- and among the contenders, a growing sense of urgency. One campaign manager noted the dwindling days, remarking, perhaps ominously, that the candidates were "turning the page on summer."

There are 119 days left in the year and, as jockeying among the states for position on the primary calendar continues, a few days after New Year's could bring the Iowa caucuses, the first stop in what is certain to be the most front-loaded presidential voting schedule in history. While Labor Day is traditionally viewed as the informal kickoff of the presidential campaign season, this year, it felt more like the midpoint in a marathon.

But from 33,000 feet up, there wasn't a cloud in the sky yesterday morning from Portsmouth, N.H., to Sioux City, Iowa, a perfect day for campaigning. And the candidates made the most of it.

Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) were up early. Edwards jetted from Iowa to Pittsburgh, where he picked up a pair of important union endorsements. The ever-energetic Romney had three events scheduled in New Hampshire before noon and a busy afternoon as well.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was in Iowa, refusing to stray from his commitment to the war in Iraq, and without his famous Straight Talk Express bus or the crowds he was once accustomed to seeing.

The Democratic front-runners continued their long-distance debate on the question of which better represents the virtues of "change" and "experience," with Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in New Hampshire and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton marking day two of her campaign tour with her husband with a pair of stops in Iowa.

The first voting may seem distant, but the campaigns know it isn't. It was 10 full months ago when the first candidate formally announced for president -- and it has been more than six months since that candidate formally quit the race. Everything seems accelerated in Campaign 2008, as the schedules of many of the candidates reflected yesterday.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, Sept. 3 -- Hillary and Bill Clinton brought their traveling political road show to Iowa on Labor Day. The former first lady and the former president, by now long practiced as a political duo, continued the process of role reversal in the pursuit of a history-making presidency .

Industrial-size barbecue grills were already smoking in Sioux City's Riverside Park when the Clintons arrived shortly before 11 a.m. Jim Kavanaugh and Tim Bahr were in charge of one grill, as they have been for the last half-dozen years at the annual picnic hosted by the Northwest Iowa Labor Council and the Woodbury County Democratic Party.

"It's kind of an annual thing we do together," Kavanaugh said, as the smoke poured from the big steel barbecue that would help cook a couple thousand burgers.

"I think this might be the last year," Bahr, a retired packing house employee, said from the other side of the grill. "Let a younger man have it."

Clinton wasn't the only Democratic candidate due at the picnic. Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, former North Carolina senator John Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden all were planning to attend. But it was the New York senator and her husband who arrived first.


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