First the Dems. It's go-time for Obama and Edwards. They are within the margin of error or close to it of Clinton's lead in Iowa. If Obama or Edwards win Iowa, they can carry the momentum into N.H., and it will also ruin her aura of inevitability. If Clinton wins Iowa, it will be near impossible to stop her train. My money is still on Clinton, but it is not the sure thing it was two weeks ago.
By the way, it's a three-way race. The others (Biden, Gravel, Kooky, even Richardson) are already done for.
The GOP race is far, far more interesting. There is essentially a five-way race happening. The latest polls in Iowa show Romney and Huckabee. Rudy leads nationally, including the big states and the swing states, but none of the early states. Folks, this is a big deal. No prez has lost all three early states (IA, NH, and SC) and gone on to win the primary. What happens here effects the other states. This time in 2003, Dean was the sure thing. In California, he was leading in double-digits over his rivals. Kerry was under 5%.
But after New Hampshire, the numbers pratically reversed in Kerry's favor.
If Rudy loses the first three, I can promise you it will change the dynamic of the race. This is what Romney is counting on.
If not Rudy, who? I don't think Romney will be able to pull it off. He has poured tons of money (most of it, his own) into Iowa and New Hampshire, but he can't buy his way into this. For the rest of the nation: he trails badly. Yes, the Mormon question is somewhat of an issue, which is unfortunate. (You think conservatives would give a break to a religion that is completely American.) However, it is much more the fact that he flip-flopped on every major issue: gay rights, stem cells, guns, and abortion. People can't stand a panderer--Rudy was wise not to follow his footsteps on that matter.
Thompson is a dud. He is rejected by Dobson and many cultural conservatives--and if he doesn't have them, then what's the point? That's why he entered the race! Anyways, he is sinking fast. He waited too long to get in, and he certainly hasn't impressed anyone.
I was willing to write off McCain, but is actually rising. He is now leading in South Carolina and rising in New Hampshire. You could argue he retooled his campaign, but frankly, this is more a dissatisfaction with Rudy/Romney than anything else. I predicted long ago he would win because he is the establishment candidate. He was supposed to take the path of Bob Dole: Prove yourself electable, then prove yourself loyal. There were more worthy opponents of Bill Clinton in 1996, but it was Bob Dole's turn. So he got the nod in 1996.
McCain proved himself in the 2000 election, then became loyal (to a fault) to W. It was his turn, and Bush turned over the key to his apparatus. The problem is that McCain was originally liked because of his independent streak, and now he is seen as Bush's lapdog. He was the biggest cheerleader for Bush, the war, the surge, and immigration reform. None have proved popular.
The darkhorse in the GOP race is Huckabee. He is leading in Iowa or coming in second depending on the poll. He was a popular Southern governor, and a Baptist minister. He would be palatable for most social, religious, and economic conservatives.
The problem is he can't catch a break.
First, Robertson endorsed Rudy to the chagrin of Huck supporters. How a thrice-divorced, gay supporting, taxpayer-funded abortion proponent got the nod is more of a desperate attempt by Robertson to stay relevant than anything else. (Didn't he agree with Falwell that people like that caused 9/11??)
The second blow came from the national Right to Life. It has a large core of grass-roots volunteers who could have really helped Mr. Huck instead of blowing it all on Thompson. Ironically, they actually said "I heart Huckabee" was much better with their core issue, since he opposes all abortion instead of just saying it should be determined by the states like Thompson. Nonetheless, they went with Thompson because he was more "electable".
Yeah, the GOP race is much more fun to watch. I'm taking bets...