Daily Iowa Insider: Where we stand
After a brief trip up to Canada for the weekend to meet with the political science department at a graduate school, I am back and ready for the home stretch run that leads to the January 3rd Iowa Caucus. A lot will be riding on that contest. If Hillary wins, the momentum pushing her into New Hampshire as the odds-on inevitable nominee might be too overwhelming for Obama or Edwards to stop. Of course, if Edwards wins Iowa, which could end up happening, Hillary might be just as excited. Just as long as Obama finishes lower than first place in Iowa, she will be optimistic heading into New Hampshire and beyond.
As for Edwards, he actually could win Iowa. Remember, this is not a primary. It's not one person one vote. Instead, each precinct, regardless of population, will receive the exact same amount of delegates. Edwards, who has visited all 99 counties, has a respectable shot at pulling off the upset. He has visited some of the most rural parts of Iowa, which have the exact same weight in terms of votes as precincts in Des Moines. Anything can happen.
Over the last few days, I have grown less optimistic about Barack Obama's chances in Iowa. Yes, I still consider him the slight favorite to win. But I am less optimistic because I am getting a Howard Dean vibe from his campaign. Like Dean, Obama is over-relying on younger voters, many of which never caucused before, and could even decide not to show up on the cold, wintery January 3rd evening. Many of the college students will be back in their home towns, some in other states, and therefore would be unable to attend. If the caucus were on the week of January 14th, therefore, I would say Obama would win by at least five percentage points. But now that it has been moved up, the loyalists, especially those in rural counties, might give the advantage to Edwards.
It's still a toss-up. The media is trying to make this a two-way race between Hillary and Obama. As far as Iowa concerned, it isn't. There are three contenders, all with an almost equal shot of winning. These are crucial days between now and December 23rd, and then from the 27th leading up to the 3rd. You can bet that there will be no Christmas for any candidate, as they try to grab the very last undecided Iowa voters and get them to commit to caucus.