updated 10/27/2006 5:09:27 PM ET 2006-10-27T21:09:27

As a tense battle for Congress enters the final stretch, potential contenders for the 2008 presidential election are flooding battleground states to win friends, curry favor and expand their influence.

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In addition to the usual trips to the campaign kickoff states of Iowa and New Hampshire, hordes of Democratic and Republican White House hopefuls are journeying to states like Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey and Colorado to help candidates in the Nov. 7 election.

In a few days this week, Republican Sen. John McCain was in New Jersey, South Carolina and Alabama. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh stopped in Tennessee and Indiana, Democratic Sen. John Kerry visited New Jersey and Connecticut and former Republican New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani hit Tennessee.

Looking for an advantage
As many as a dozen presidential hopefuls in each party have clogged the campaign trail all year, but the pace has intensified ahead of the congressional election. Now both parties want their brightest stars on the road and candidates can showcase their ability to rally voters and raise money.

"You can't win the nomination two years out but you can give yourself a pretty strong advantage, collecting chits, making alliances and building an organization," said Republican consultant Dan Schnur, an aide to McCain during his 2000 presidential run.

That is how Democrat Ed Perlmutter in Colorado, a state legislator in a crucial House race in the Denver suburbs, found himself on stage at separate rallies this week with Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and former Democratic Sen. John Edwards.

The rally with Obama, who said earlier in the week he would "consider" a bid for president, was moved from a small theater to an outdoor plaza to accommodate the crowd of about 1,300. The event earned Perlmutter and Obama front-page coverage and photos in the Denver newspapers.

"It gave us a platform to talk about our issues and put a spotlight on our message that we wouldn't normally get," said Scott Chase, a spokesman for Perlmutter. "It was a huge boost."

Two on the ballot
Only two potential presidential contenders are on the ballot in November, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, and they have had vastly different campaign experiences.

Clinton is cruising, amassing a huge war chest and preparing for a possible national run. Allen is fighting for his political life after a series of missteps that have badly damaged his credibility for a White House run.

"Even if Allen manages to limp across the finish line, these are the kind of incidents that will make a presidential campaign almost impossible," Schnur said.

Clinton can use her easy re-election run to kick off a presidential campaign, much as President Bush used his re-election as Texas governor in 1998 to jump-start his White House run in 2000.

Cash and campaign help
With Democrats needing to gain 15 House of Representative seats and six Senate seats to win control of each chamber, the White House contenders also shower cash on candidates and help them with fund raising.

McCain has attended more than 100 campaign events for candidates in 35 states this year. Kerry has made campaign stops in 34 states and Bayh has been to more than 20.

Using Kerry's e-mail list from his 2004 White House campaign, fund-raising appeals by Kerry and Obama raised $900,000 in 48 hours this week for Democratic Senate candidates in crucial races in Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and New Jersey.

Bayh donated $100,000 to the Democratic Party in Indiana, home to three key House races. His political action committee is paying the salaries of 50 staffers working on races in Indiana and in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, home to the first four nominating contests of 2008.

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