On caucus day, Zogby has Obama on top

Would a third-place finish be a disaster for Clinton?


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Tim Grieve
January 3, 2008 7:54PM (UTC)

We'll admit to being entirely polled out on Iowa, but here's one more poll -- the last one, we promise -- before Hawkeye State residents turn out for the caucuses tonight. In the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking poll released this morning, Barack Obama moves to a four-point lead over John Edwards. Hillary Clinton is in third place, seven points behind Obama and four points down from where she was in the last tracking poll.

On the Republican side, Zogby has Mike Huckabee up by six points over Mitt Romney, with three other contenders -- John McCain, Fred Thompson and Ron Paul -- essentially tied for a fairly distant third.

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With the last poll done, the expectations game is now in full play. On the Republican side, there's so much talk of a "surprise" third-place finish for McCain that it may be a surprise if he doesn't do that well. Thompson is denying reports that he plans to drop out if he doesn't do well in Iowa and trying to explain that when he talks of the need for "victory" there, he doesn't necessarily mean, you know, winning.

On the Democratic side, both Obama and Edwards are exuding confidence but avoiding victory predictions, and the Clinton camp is pre-spinning the possibility of a third-place showing.

Obama, on the "Today" show this morning, was asked to give a "straight answer" as to whether it's important for him to "win outright" in Iowa. He said he would, then didn't: "This is a straight answer," he said. "We do have to do well in Iowa. There's no doubt. We put money. We put time. We put energy. We've gotten tons of volunteers. And we've said from the start that if we couldn't do well in Iowa, it would be hard for us to do well in other places. So we are looking for a good result. I think it is going to be very close. I think that we've got a lot of strong candidates in the field. But what I've seen is, is that the people of Iowa are hungry for change. They want to bring the country together to solve big problems like healthcare and energy. And I think that our message has resonated. So we hope for a good evening."

Edwards, on "Morning Joe," predicted that somebody will win outright in Iowa and talked about what it means if he's the one to do so. "Here's what it means," he said. "If I'm successful here in Iowa, having been outspent 5- or 6-1, which is what we will have been outspent, then it means this message of ending corporate greed and standing for the middle class has driven like a laser through glitz and money. And if it'll work here, it'll work in New Hampshire, it'll work in South Carolina, it'll work in Nevada."

Edwards said "the money will pour in" if he wins tonight.

NBC political director Chuck Todd said Wednesday night that a third-place finish for Clinton in Iowa would be a "near-disaster scenario" for her campaign. But former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who endorsed Clinton after he dropped out of the race last year, said Wednesday that she could declare success in Iowa even if she finishes behind Obama and Edwards. "She has done what she needed to do here," Vilsack said. "When she started the process she was way behind -- it's now by all standards a competitive race."

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At least the last half of that is true.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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