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To Shill or Chill

Californians are in Des Moines in droves tonight, in what one Obama donor compared to Sundance for the politically motivated class.

In other words, there will be a bevy of parties and events and each time you’ll be wondering whether you’ve picked the right one.

Among those in the industry braving the single-digit temps this week are Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen for the Clinton campaign, Michael and Jamie Lynton for the Obama campaign and Skip Paul for the Edwards campaign. Also in town: political consultant Noah Mamet (who has been raising money for Clinton), Kal Penn (for Obama), Richard Schiff (for Joe Biden), John Mellencamp (for John Edwards) and Chuck Norris (for Mike Huckabee). The Colorado band Big Head Todd and the Monsters plays for Hillary Clinton at a New Year’s Eve celebration tonight, says Michael Sprengelmeyer, who has been camped out in Iowa for the better part of this year for the Rocky Mountain News.

Over the weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom stumped for Hillary Clinton, but they have left for warmer climes.

“We didn’t just breeze through town,” jokes Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, Obama’s California co-chair, who is in Iowa through Friday. He’s planning to attend an event at Centro, one of the higher-end Des Moines restaurants, as well as a dinner hosted by Obama’s National Finance Committee.

I talked to him this afternoon about the state of the race and he calls it “really, really tight.”

“It absolutely is,” he says.

Garcetti has been walking precincts, working the phones and speaking to potential caucusgoers since Friday, along with San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, California co-chair for Obama. His impression? That the Obama campaign has been able to expand the universe of poitential caucusgoers, but it will take more work to make sure they turn out.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe played up some of the crowds that the candidate has been attracting (Garcetti said he attended one event last night at Meeks Junior High School in Des Moines that drew 1,500 people), and even provided a chart that compares Obama’s sizes to Clinton and Edwards. But crowds don’t guarantee turnout, and perhaps to temper expectations — which is key to the caucus — Plouffe cited a 1 on 7 “avalanche” of spending by Obama’s rivals and outside 527 groups.

Garcetti says that no caucusgoers he’s talked to have mentioned any of the 527 attack ads to him. Obama has in turn showed “restraint” by making “teasing barbs of the criticism of him but he doesn’t go on the offense.”

Other than being in the middle of the media universe, there’s another advantage to braving the Iowa ice.

“Iowans are much more polite than when I’ve made calls in other places,” Garcetti says.

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