The month of August is when many Americans are on vacation and usually not thinking much about presidential campaigns, but that's not the case in New Hampshire and Iowa, where politics is virtually a year-round business.
While Congress takes its annual August recess and President Bush plans to spend a couple of weeks at his Texas ranch, the presidential candidates and the state party organizations showed no sign of slowing their campaign activities — especially in the first two major nominating contests of the 2008 elections.
The most conspicuous exception perhaps was Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, who was on a two-week vacation on Cape Cod, though a senior state party official said, "he's got his BlackBerry with him and keeping in touch."
Mr. Buckley's absence notwithstanding, state party leaders said that political activity remained as fast and frenetic as ever in the first presidential primary state as the candidates prepared to shift their campaigns into overdrive after Labor Day.
"We never stop. Politics is our state hobby," said former New Hampshire Democratic chairman Kathleen Sullivan. "I think this is an unusual year, at least on the Democratic side. There's much more interest much earlier this year in the upcoming primary," she said.
"The candidates around here are getting good turnouts. Of course, they will be paying a lot more attention after Labor Day."
Still, holding the voters' attention and maintaining their campaigns' visibility and energy levels during August is a challenge for the candidates, who must campaign where the voters are.
In Iowa, where the nation's first nominating caucuses will be held Jan. 14, that means the world-famous state fair, which runs from August 9 to 19.
All the candidates are planning to campaign at the annual summer event, said Democratic party officials who are coordinating campaign appearances.
"Summer events can also be political events like the state fair and county picnics," said Carrie Giddons, the state Democratic communications director. "We've had eight candidates in the state this past week."
"We are busier in August than we may be in September. We are seeing a remarkable interest in this political cycle. Republicans have a lot going on this coming week with the Iowa straw poll and an ABC News debate [yesterday], and Democrats are very active in the state, even though it's August," she said.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner in Iowa, has a full schedule in the state this month, too.
But whether the voters were really listening to the candidates or temporarily tuning out the political messages until after Labor Day was still a question in the minds of some veteran campaign strategists.
"The New Hampshire voters take their responsibility very seriously, and I think we are seeing that already," said Jim Demers, a longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party adviser who is supporting Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
"But I do think the summer months here are traditionally months when the voters listen, but are not fully engaged," he said.