Let me start by admitting that John Edwards is not the sort of candidate I would necessarily consider voting for in a presidential contest. I don't dislike him. I just don't care for his political views.
I say that to emphasize that I never allow my personal feelings or opinions to influence my analysis of our polling.
A second example of our work was the poll we conducted in Florida just prior to the recent CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate in that state. It was the first poll I know of that showed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee moving into second place among GOP candidates in any state.
I thought we would be butchered by the press for showing this sea change in the presidential sweepstakes. But this big change was a real one. And after the debate -- right after two more of our polls showed that both Floridians and Iowans thought Huckabee was the winner -- Huckabee indeed began his rapid ascent across the country.
Now we have put our neck out even further with a poll earlier in the week that showed Edwards is virtually tied with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama among highly likely participants in the Iowa Democratic caucus.
Even more significant, Edwards is the second choice of those who support the other Democratic candidates, and by a fairly strong plurality.
That's important in the Iowa Democratic caucus system. If the candidate you vote for doesn't get at least 15 percent of the vote, you must then choose from among those candidates that did get at least 15 percent.
Edwards' lead on that "second ballot" could make him a real threat in what so far has been characterized as a fight between Clinton and Obama.
If Edwards were to win in Iowa, then the Democratic nomination process could start to unravel. New Hampshire voters love to vote in ways contrary to what might be expected. They might just decide to join with Edwards as the dark horse candidate.
And a more competitive Edwards would likely cost Clinton in South Carolina, where African-Americans make up nearly 50 percent of the Democratic vote. Blacks there are starting to side with Obama, with Clinton and Edwards battling for the white vote.
It could be that, much like the suddenly struggling Rudy Giuliani for the Republicans, Clinton's only shot at turning the race around is Florida. Clinton has consistently led in the polls in Florida, and it might be hard for Edwards to overtake her in the Sunshine State.
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