WASHINGTON — The Democratic presidential candidates are trading their campaign buses for planes this week as they race across the country in search of support in the 22 states that vote Feb. 5.
The quest for votes in every corner of the country at the same time requires a different sort of campaign from the one the candidates have run so far, when each spent days or weeks in one state at a time, meeting voters one on one.
The sheer size of the "Super Tuesday" competition is forcing them to make calculated decisions about where to spend limited time and money — competing in some states and ceding others, while looking for the most delegates they can get.
"We all went from running the equivalent of very competitive Senate campaigns to a national campaign overnight," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Plans for the first half of the week emerged Monday. Candidates probably won't know until late in the week what they're doing — or where they're going — this weekend.
A look at the three candidates:
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is dashing nationwide, starting with a visit Tuesday to his grandfather's home in Kansas. His mother came from Kansas; his father from Kenya.
From there, he plans trips to Missouri, Colorado, Arizona and California, with more stops to be added this weekend.
In the South, he hopes that a solid ground organization in Alabama and Georgia will turn out big African-American votes as it did in South Carolina last Saturday. Obama aides noted that his campaign has eight field offices already operating in Georgia and five in Alabama.
In five caucus states — Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico and North Dakota — Obama modeled his organizations after his winning caucus operation in Iowa. Several Iowa staffers have fanned out to those states.
In Massachusetts, Obama has the entire political establishment batting for him, including Gov. Deval Patrick and Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry. Obama's camp also hopes that Kennedy's endorsement Monday carries over to California, which has many Latinos loyal to Kennedy on immigration law and many union voters with an affinity toward Kennedy.
In the biggest states, California and New York, Obama will rely more heavily on television advertising.
Though he trails in polls in both mega-states, the primaries aren't winner-take-all. Even in New York, he hopes to pick up as many delegates as possible in congressional districts where he has the most natural constituencies, such as African-Americans or younger voters.
"Do we expect to win there? No. But do we expect to do very well and pick up delegates? Absolutely," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina will focus his time, money and staff on 10 states largely in the South and Great Plains.
"If we can compete (in those) and be viable in the remaining 12 states, then we're going to have a very good day on Feb. 5," said former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, Edwards' campaign manager.
Edwards plans to campaign personally in seven states this week , the Southern states of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee and the Plains states of Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
He also plans to target a few congressional districts in some other states, and will look for help from surrogates and allies in states that he can't reach himself.
In California, for example, he's counting on aggressive support from the 760,000-member state council of the Service Employees International Union. He also plans to start television advertising in 10 states this week, with hopes of expanding the TV campaign into other states by the weekend. Aides wouldn't identify the states or say whether they'd underscore or complement the South-Plains strategy.
The key to buying TV ads, of course, is money. Aides said Monday that the Edwards campaign had enough money to compete, noting that it raised $3.2 million from online contributors in January, much of which will be matched with federal tax financing.
Clinton has revealed little of her Super Tuesday strategy, announcing only that Bill Clinton will campaign in New Jersey on Tuesday and she'll travel to Arkansas on Wednesday.
Clinton's campaign has paid staff in many, though not all, of the 22 states and is advertising in some but not all of them.
While the retail politics aren't quite as intense as in early-voting small states, the race hasn't devolved into a series of airport-tarmac rallies yet, either.
Clinton did town-hall meetings Monday in Connecticut and Massachusetts: "We want people to have a chance to hear from her" in a substantive way, Singer said. "We're actually making a concerted effort to talk to voters."
(Matt Stearns and Margaret Talev contributed to this article.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2008