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That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Updated

The three leading Democratic candidates blanket the Iowa airwaves tonight with closing messages on the evening news.

Hillary Clinton, the first to buy the advertising time, says in a two-minute message, “Crossroads,” that she will “be ready to start on day one.” In soft and gentle tones, she looks directly in the camera, and tells potential caucusgoers, “Put on your coats, call up a friend and help me change America. If you stand up for me one night, I will stand up for you every day as president.”

John Edwards’ 60-second ad doesn’t feature the candidate but former Maytag employee Doug Bishop, of Baxter, Iowa. Speaking before an audience in front of a giant American flag and wearing an Edwards sticker, Bishop tells a story of meeting Edwards shortly after losing his job. Edwards “grabbed my seven-year-old son by the hand, he dropped to one knee, and he looked him straight in the eye and he said ‘I’m going to keep fighting for your daddy’s job, I promise you that.’ You know, that stuff sticks with you. That’s the kind of things we need in a leader in this country.”

Actor James Denton of “Desperate Housewives” is among those doing phone bank duties in Ames and Des Moines today. Edwards finishes the day with a closing rally featuring John Mellencamp.

Obama’s campaign is expected to release his final ad this afternoon. NBC’s First read obtained a transcript.

“Obama, wearing a dark suit and speaking in front of a dark background, stresses a sense of urgency, telling caucus-goers to ask, “[W]ho can take us in a fundamentally new direction? I’m running to finally solve problems we talk about year after year after year to end the division, obscene influence of lobbyists, and the politics that values scoring points over making progress.

“We can’t afford more of that. Not this year. Not now. I’ve spent my life working for change that has made a real difference in the lives of real people.”

Update: The two-minute Obama ad, marked in that it is free of inspirational “West Wing” like music prevalent in other spots, is here.

Understatement of the campaign may be when Obama says this: “Tomorrow, we’ll come to an end of a ten-month journey. You’ve heard from all of us, and read our plans; you’ve been bombarded with mailings and phone calls, and you’ll be glad to know this is one of the last times you’ll hear me say, ‘I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.'”

Thompson’s Journey: Journalists picked up on the fact that Fred Thompson spent all of 34 minutes campaigning on Tuesday, and instead spent the day largely with family and watching football. Thompson told reporters, “It was a close call, to go jogging in almost zero-degree weather, or stay in and take a nap. After considerable consideration, I decided to take a nap. . . . Just kidding, I didn’t really take a nap.” In his defense, his spokesman noted that Thompson has done 50 events in 17 days throughout Iowa.

Thompson’s closing message comes in the form of a 17-minute web video, in which he sits in front of his campaign logo and an American and Iowa flag and speaks almost as if he’s deliverying  an address from the Oval Office. The spot reminds you that it’s a role that he’s played several times on screen.

Spending Totals: It’s not even over, but here’s the tally on candidate TV ad spending in Iowa, per CNN, which says that the campaigns have shelled out a total of $40 million in the state. “That works out roughly to about $17 per voter, between $150 and $200 per expected caucus-goer, and nearly $500,000 per each of the state’s 82 delegates in a contest that — unlike 2004 — is wide open on both sides of the aisle.”

Kucinich’s Call: With Dennis Kucinich throwing his support to Barack Obama should he not meet Iowa’s caucus threshold, the campaign can’t be as worried about a Wall Street Journal report today that describes, in great detail, the candidate’s siting of a UFO in 1982 at the Washington state home of Shirley MacLaine.

From the Journal: “At no time did I feel afraid, even though I felt very small,” says one witness, Paul Costanzo. “I sensed that I was in the presence of a greater technology and intelligence.”

“After a few minutes, the lights moved closer and it became apparent that they were actually three charcoal-gray, triangular craft, flying in a tight wedge. The girlfriend remembers each triangle having red and green lights running down the edges, with a laser-like red light at the tail. Mr. Costanzo recalls white lights, but no tail.

“Mr. Costanzo says each triangle was roughly the size of a large van, while his former girlfriend compares it to a “larger Cessna, smaller than a jet certainly.” Neither recalls seeing any markings, landing gear, engines, windows or cockpits.

“The craft approached to within 200 yards, suspended over the field just beyond the swimming pool. Both witnesses say it emitted a quiet, throbbing sound — nothing like an airplane engine.”

Huckabee’s Trip: Mike Huckabee defends his decision to leave Iowa today and instead appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” tonight, noting that many more people will see him there than elsewhere (even if he’ll be crossing picket lines on Leno’s first show back).

“It’s just an incredible opportunity to be there, particularly the very first night he’s back,” Huckabee said on Tuesday. “Besides, if all else fails, and this whole process doesn’t work out, maybe he needs a sidekick and I’ll be auditioning tomorrow.”

Huckabee told reporters that he was unaware that he’d be crossing picket lines to appear on the show, and said he had believed that Leno had reached an agreement with writers (that was Letterman who forged a special pact), according to the New York Times.

From the Times: “Although crossing picket lines might not be unusual for most Republican candidates, Mr. Huckabee has waged an unusual populist campaign on economic issues, stressing his empathy with the anxieties of working people. On Wednesday, he said he identified with the striking television workers as an author himself and believed they deserved a share of the proceeds from the sale of their work.”

The Huffington Post, meanwhile, has this video of Huckabee’s appearance last night with Chuck Norris.