A fresh round of polls has underscored the sense of flux in the 2008 presidential race--in both parties. A Washington Post-ABC News poll of Iowa Democratsshows a three-way race for the Jan 3 caucuses--but with Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, in the lead.
The buzz in recent days has been about Clinton's return to top form in last week's Democratic debate in Nevada. But no one should conclude that the Democratic race for Iowa, and the nomination, is over. It is not.
At the same time, a CNN-WMUR survey showed Mitt Romney maintaining his solid New Hampshire lead--but with John McCain in second place, ahead of Rudy Giuliani. Fred Thompson has plummeted. Meantime, underfunded longshot Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister slowly accumulating support on the religious right, has moved into second place in Iowa.
These are divergent trends for Mitt Romney. A solid Huckabee showing in Iowa could siphon attention and momentum away from Romney if the former Massachusetts governor holds his Iowa lead. And the stronger Huckabee runs, the better for Giuliani--as a national front-runner who favors abortion rights, he's happy for Romney, Huckabee and Fred Thompson to split the votes of religious conservatives.
On the other hand, Giuliani cannot afford to get thrashed in Iowa and New Hampshire by Romney and expect to maintain his standing in the primary states that follow. The laws of political momentum won't allow it. And Romney has strengthened his position in South Carolina.
It all adds up to a simple conclusion: campaign 2008 has plenty of life yet before nominees are decided.
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