Iowa update: All evidence points to there being no favorite

Lots of controversy over Monday's ARG poll that showed Clinton way up. There is no doubt that, since the poll was taken the week-end before Christmas, it should be taken with more caution than usual and it cannot be taken at all to mean that Hillary is now way ahead in Iowa. And I was the first one to say so on Monday. The point still remains that the trend-line is moving towards Clinton. I do not buy that Clinton has a 15% lead in Iowa naturally, but there are other polls (like Strategic Vision) that show that Clinton has halted her free fall and that the race is back to a toss-up.

Polls are likely on the field now and will start being reported over the week-end, so we will know much more about the post-Christmas Iowa situation (and whether Christmas dinner conversations changed any minds) in the coming days.

8 days from Iowa, most Democratic candidates were in Iowa this week-end. Now that we are in the home-stretch, there will be less and less visible stories to report, as the campaigns focus on ground work rather than overarching strategies. But we can still learn a lot about where numbers are heading from the way in which candidates are campaigning.

Today, Obama is going after Hillary Clinton with some added intensity with comments like this: "If they've been secretive in the past, they'll be secretive as president." Clearly a shot at Clinton's 1993 health care leadership and her refusal to open up the presidential archives.

For Obama to go on the offensive a week from the caucuses does betray, however, that his momentum of early December has deserted him. Going negative in Iowa carries huge risks, and no candidate does it unless they feel like they have to. Remember that the first two weeks of December it was Clinton going all out against Obama and the Illinois Senator was barely responding to her! Clinton's slide has since stopped and the candidates are locked in a toss-up.

The Obama-Clinton back-and-forth could benefit to John Edwards, which has always been part of John Edwards's strategy. And another huge factor in Edwards's favor are 527s. "Alliance for a New America" 's involvement in Iowa was documented throughout the week-end because of Obama's criticism of the 527s and Krugman's jumping in the fight, but the group now has started airing a new ad in favor of John Edwards (view the ad here), and there are also sending plenty of pre-Edwards mailers being sent out to Iowa households independently of the Edwards campaign.

Despite Edwards's financial hole, he has been able to be as present in Iowa than his two rivals -- and he pretty much remains on par with them going into the final week. And when looking at Iowa polls, remember that Edwards's support is likely understated given the (1) committed nature of his support, and (2) the second-choice preference the candidate benefits from.

Meanwhile, via the Politico, weather.com's forecast now extends all the way to January 3rd. Their forecast for now: It will not be snowing or raining, nor will it be particularly freezing (a low of 22 degree in Des Moines). So it looks as of now that weather will not get in the way of voting. (To the commenters who are claiming that "nobody can predict the weather this far out," maybe you should e-mail weather.com and complain about the way they conduct their weather reports).



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