As soon as Iowa voters finish casting their caucus ballots Thursday, a wave of campaign staffers and volunteers will leave the Hawkeye State bound for South Carolina, where they will make one final push for votes before the primaries.
For the next four weeks, they'll work long hours, scarf down takeout pizzas and grab a few hours of sleep on hotel beds and spare sofas. That's the frenetic pace that presidential primary campaigns demand, especially in a year when no clear front-runner has emerged in either party.
The New Hampshire primary comes on Jan. 8 -- in between Iowa and South Carolina. But political observers say the wide-open nature of the field has created greater urgency in the Palmetto State, too.
When staffers arrive, they will organize phone banks, put out road signs, send out mailings and even hit the streets to chat up voters.
"They're going to flood the state," York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall said.
County Democratic Chairman Jim Watkins said he's been asked to help find lodging for Hillary Clinton campaign staffers. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's operation says it has organized 11,000 volunteers across all 46 S.C. counties, including seven regional offices.
"The closest thing I can remember is when Jimmy Carter had his peanut brigade," Watkins said. "A lot of folks went out and joined his campaign and did the same things these folks are doing, sloshing through the snow in Iowa and New Hampshire."
All that sloshing can add up to big numbers for the local economy. The Iowa caucuses, for example, generate about $25 million in economic impact for greater Des Moines, according to the region's convention and visitors bureau.
Even with the focus still on Iowa, there are signs that campaigning in South Carolina has hit the last-minute stage.
• For the past three Saturdays, supporters of Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee have stood at busy intersections, including last week in front of the Rock Hill Galleria, waving signs and handing out bumper stickers.
• On Monday at noon, Ron Paul backers say they will march through central Rock Hill in support of their candidate. The walk will begin at Byrnes Auditorium on the campus of Winthrop University and end at Cherry Park, organizer Sherri Horency of Rock Hill said.
The flurry of political activity already has caught voters' attention. Nearly 28,000 South Carolinians have registered to vote in recent weeks, bringing the total number of people eligible to cast ballots to 2.5 million. Republicans go to the polls Jan. 19; Democrats follow a week later.
Both parties expect higher participation this year than in 2000, the last time a competitive primary was held in South Carolina. That's because more candidates are running and more money is being spent on advertising.