Polls agree and disagree: Edwards is looking good.
There's no end of polls being offered up these days, and there's a seemingly endless number of conclusions they're offering. My gut feeling is that Edwards is leading on the Democratic side, while Barack Obama is going to wind up melting down. Obama's big problem is that he's relying on younger voters to caucus for him, which never works out—just ask President McGovern. I suspect Obama's not going to be able to recover from a third-place finish in Iowa, with Senator Clinton coming in second and Senator Edwards taking a handy first. For a long time I thought winning Iowa wouldn't matter to results in New Hampshire, but now I'm thinking differently.
There's an old chestnut that says that "New Hampshire is a county in Iowa," which means that Edwards will be looking at a New Hampshire bounce if he wins in Iowa. I think his New Hampshire bounce will be stronger than usual for Iowa winners because Edwards will win over many Obama supporters if he does well in Iowa and Obama does not. Of course, if it turns out that Obama does well in Iowa and Edwards does not, then Edwards' supporters will shift to Obama. It's not likely that Clinton would mop up many supporters from either of these candidates.
If Edwards can come in first in Iowa and New Hampshire—which seems very plausible—he'll be looking good for the general. Clinton will resort to making much hay out of Michigan and Florida, while putting much effort into keeping her strong lead in much-ignored Nevada and into winning South Carolina (which she could very well do.) However, Edwards would have the momentum at this point, and while you certainly couldn't count Clinton out at this point, Edwards would be the favorite à la John Kerry in 2004.
At least, that's how the tarot cards read this time. There'll be attempts at jockeying for position over the next five days, and then it's over. But I'll tell you: I've made up my mind about how this nomination's going to play out so many times, and I have yet to reach the same conclusion twice. We'll just have to keep an eye on Iowa and hope that things turn out the way we want them to.
As to the Republicans: I think Mike Huckabee has peaked, and that Mitt Romney will wind up winning the state—if any Republicans bother to show up to caucus. Don't expect John McCain to do well here. He'll have trouble making up ground in New Hampshire, too, suffice it to say. Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans are unusually unexcited this year, according to reports I've been hearing, and according to these persistent gut feelings I've been getting. (If I turn out to be wrong, though, then I'd better get to a doctor, because these feelings clearly mean something else!)