Michael Barone

Meanwhile, Iowa Democrats may shake up their party's race. Iowa polls have long shown a close three-way race with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. In late November polls, ABC-Washington Post put Obama 4 percentage points ahead, ARG had him 2 points up, Rasmussen showed Clinton up by 2 points, and Strategic Vision had them tied.

Edwards trailed the leader in each poll by just 3 to 8 percentage points. He has been campaigning there for four years, and Obama has had more staff and has spent more money there than Clinton for most of the year.

It's suddenly looking quite possible that Clinton could lose in Iowa, and her lead over Obama in New Hampshire has declined from an average of 19 percentage points in September and October polls to 13 points in November polls. It could decline further or disappear if Obama wins in Iowa, and a two-candidate race would ensue.

It's less clear that Edwards could capitalize on an Iowa win in New Hampshire. He hasn't polled above 15 percent there since May, and in 2004, after a solid second-place finish in Iowa, he finished fourth with a miserable 12 percent in New Hampshire.

Of course, the contests could turn out the way many Washington insiders have long expected -- the methodical Clinton winning easily and quickly; the well-financed and well-organized Romney, propelled by Iowa and New Hampshire victories, fending off Giuliani, McCain and Thompson. But the 200,000 or so Iowans who have so much to say about who will be president for all 303,000,000 of us may have other ideas.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM