Mitt Romney is packing boxes of food for the needy on Wednesday and then preparing the stuffing and mashed potatoes for his own family's big dinner on Thanksgiving. Chris Dodd is serving meals and distributing box lunches in three separate Iowa cities.

For Republican Romney, Democrat Dodd and many other presidential candidates, the holiday offers a chance to put policy speeches aside and spend part of the day with the underprivileged they speak about on the campaign trail. This year Thanksgiving comes just six weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

One candidate will be a world away. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has made his support of the Iraq troop increase by the U.S. a central theme of his campaign, is spending Thanksgiving in Iraq.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., planned to spend Wednesday and Thursday at home in Chappaqua, N.Y., after making a food delivery Tuesday evening to the Central Iowa Shelter and Services in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., planned on packing and loading food Wednesday at New Horizons for New Hampshire Inc., a food pantry, soup kitchen and shelter in Manchester. Democrat John Edwards was to be there next Monday to drop off food from his supporters.

Obama was heading home to Chicago for Thanksgiving Day. Edwards said he would feast at home in North Carolina and spend Friday watching football.

"Elizabeth and Cate will do the cooking with some help from me," Edwards told reporters in Iowa City, referring to his wife and 25-year-old daughter.

The former North Carolina senator counts blessings in a new ad that will begin airing Wednesday in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In the ad, he says he's thankful for his family, "for 231 years of America" and "for the hopes and determination of a nation filled with the most optimistic people on Earth."

The 30-second spot features a montage of family pictures and will run through the weekend.

Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Joe Biden, D-Del., plan to spend Thanksgiving Day in Iowa with their families.

Biden planned to collect canned goods at two events Wednesday in Iowa. On Thursday, he and his family planned to volunteer at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale.

Dodd scheduled a stop Wednesday at the Salvation Army in Iowa City after passing out boxed lunches with his family at the Iowa Homeless Youth Center in Des Moines. He was also traveling to Hiawatha to fill boxes of food for the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, a community agency that distributes food to six counties in east Central Iowa.

Romney and his supporters are to help pack boxes for the same Hiawatha organization on Wednesday. He planned to celebrate the holiday Thursday by playing touch football, watching the Detroit Lions football game on television and eating dinner with his wife and three of their five sons in Belmont, Mass.

Dodd and his family planned to have Thanksgiving in Monticello at the home of Paul and Kim Specht, where more than 100 Specht family members were expected to gather in the Spechts' barn.

Fred Thompson said he would have "a quiet Thanksgiving" with his wife Jeri and their two children in Northern Virginia.

The former Tennessee senator told reporters Tuesday in Le Mars, Iowa: "I'm really looking forward to it, a full day with them, and seeing if Jeri still remembers how to cook turkey."

Republican Rudy Giuliani and his wife, Judith, planned to host a breakfast Thursday at ESPN Zone in New York for families of first responders killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Sunday, when most folks' leftovers will be gone, former President Clinton will be trying to stretch the political holiday just a little longer. More than 200 people are expected to attend a $500-per-person fundraiser he's headlining in North Little Rock, Ark., for his wife, dubbed "Thanksgiving with the President."