Operation February

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CALLIE SHELL/AURORA FOR TIME

TIME OUT: Dean, in Iowa, catches up with press clips between events

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So high are the stakes in Iowa that Kerry has sent in more resources in hopes of sapping some of Dean's momentum before he reaches New Hampshire. In all, the candidates have so far spent an unprecedented $3.8 million to saturate the Iowa airwaves, more than twice as much as has been spent in New Hampshire, according to figures compiled by a University of Wisconsin research group. Iowa's registered Democrats find their mailboxes and email In boxes stuffed with messages from the candidates and say they can hardly answer the phone anymore without hearing a tape-recorded invitation to a cookout with Kerry or a concert for Dean, or Gephardt's son Matt describing his bout with cancer.

Dean has got this far by running hard and fast, making up new moves as he goes. "They continue to take chances and risks, even though he's the front runner," says an admiring strategist for another candidate. "It's proof of how good that campaign really is." Occasionally, Dean has got out ahead of himself — a fact for which he makes no apologies: "If you can't focus on what's beyond [New Hampshire and Iowa]," he says, "you're not going to beat George W. Bush." But Dean seems to know that in focusing on what's beyond, he can't afford to lose sight of what's right in front of him.

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