Noam Scheiber

Senior Editor

I've now heard this a handful of times second-hand, but from people I trust: Hillary's internal tracking polls show her ticking up in the last week or so. The rationale I hear most often is the Des Moines Register poll endorsement, which affirmed her experience, preparedness, etc. One other thing worth passing on. You hear a lot about how high turnout would benefit Clinton and Obama, since their targeting and turnout operations are the more sophisticated and aggressive.

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More On Second-choicers

The latest batch of polls shows Romney pulling even or slightly ahead of Huckabee in Iowa, and the Democratic race there either tied or with Clinton slightly ahead. Perhaps more importantly: If all second-tier Democratic candidates fall short and their supporters switch to other candidates, Edwards gains the most, rolling up a clear lead at 33 percent to 26 percent each for Clinton and Obama.

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Knoxville, Iowa It's been two weeks since I last attended an Edwards event, and I immediately noticed something new: For some reason he was wearing a smart-looking suit and tie last night rather than his usual blazer and blue jeans combo. Maybe just another sign we're getting down to business here... More substantively, to pick up on something Mike mentioned, he spent a lot of time taking thinly-veiled swipes at Obama, not much time taking similar swipes at Hillary.

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Indianola, Iowa From the site of that Huckabee presser a little earlier today: I guess sometimes you hold a press conference in the burger joint you have, not the burger joint you wish you had...  --Noam Scheiber

Waiting For Huck...

Indianola, Iowa Mike and I are both here at some beer-and-burger joint waiting for a Huckabee presser to start. I missed the preceding event (I think Mike's about to blog about it), but I'm told Huck really laid into Romney, so we'll probably get more of the same. One quick thought before he does: When I showed up at that Romney event this morning, I thought the energy level was pretty high. A decent number of supporters turned out, and there was a respectable media scrum, too. Then I showed up at this event and thought, boy is Romney in trouble.

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Newton, Iowa I just got out of a Romney event here in Newton--probably 100-150 people (and 25-30 press) crammed into a local diner. Romney's closing stump speech is pretty solid--and, as Time's Joe Klein put it, very "efficient." He manages to pack several themes into a lean, 15-20 minute affair.  Not surprisingly, Romney was strongest talking about how his business career gives him the experience to bring change to Washington ("I've spent my life changing things, I know how change works.").

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My colleague John Judis (via e-mail) and commenter ilnoca both make a great point: Given the closeness of the race in Iowa, the difference may well be who supporters of Biden, Richardson, and Dodd migrate to if/when their caucus-groups are declared non-viable. (For those confused by terms like "non-viable," Mike will be posting a piece on caucus mechanics in the next day or two.) John suspects that these people are headed Clinton's way, given that they're probably attracted to experience and Clinton, fair or not, has been labeled the most experienced of the front-runners.

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I'll be spending most of today with Romney and Huckabee--and I promise I'll be posting from the road. In the meantime, just a thought about where things stand with them in Iowa. According to the latest poll, which is consistent with the broader trend line, Huckabee is still up 7 points on Romney here. My gut tells me that Romney is still very much alive, though--I think the odds of his winning may even be slightly higher than Huck's at this point. Here's why: Romney has spent the last few weeks absolutely pounding Huckabee on the air, on the stump, in mailings, in e-mails.

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Just a quick thought about what Iowa may or may not accomplish for the Dems. First, the three easy scenarios: 1.) Hillary wins by more than a point or two, in which case the race is basically over. 2.) Obama wins convincingly (five points or more), in which case it starts looking pretty good for him and Edwards is done.

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The Wizard of Iowa

“It’s an exciting time to be alive,” Bill Clinton exclaims. No seven words would sound more banal in the hands of a lesser politician. Clinton says them with the wonderment of a toddler who just learned to walk--at least if that toddler could speak in complete paragraphs and had a sponge-like memory for detail. “When I ran for president the average cell phone weighed five pounds,” he muses. “Go figure. You know how many sites there were on the Internet? The whole shebang? Fifty.

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