Obama Surges Ahead in Iowa

Iowans take their responsibility as "First Test" for presidential candidates very seriously. They truly believe that their job is to scrutinize the field of candidates and come to their own conclusions without regard for what the national polls might say.

This is why on both sides of the political divide, the race in Iowa is so much closer than what the national numbers have been saying for months.

The latest example of this phenomena is in this new ABC/Washington Post poll that has Illinois Senator Barack Obama running ahead of Hillary Clinton 30%-26% with John Edwards within striking distance at 22%:

An analysis by Gary Langer of ABC News says those are little changed since July: Edwards is up four, Obama is up 3 and Clinton is unchanged.

Asked which candidate is “the most honest and trustworthy,” 31 percent of respondents said Obama; 21 percent said other, none or no opinion; 20 percent said Edwards; 15 percent said Clinton; and 13 percent said Richardson.

The poll found voters are increasingly interested in a “new direction and new ideas” as opposed to strength and experience – which may help Obama, who holds a substantial lead among “new direction” voters.

Clinton’s “advantage on experience, while substantial, has softened since summer,” the analysis says. “Clinton has notably less support in Iowa than nationally in trust to handle a variety of specific issues; on Iraq, Obama now runs evenly with her. And she’s third in Iowa among men.”
This despite the fact that Clinton leads Obama by more than 20% nationally in all major polls. Is this a harbinger of the future? If Obama were to win in Iowa, many analysts see Clinton's huge lead evaporating. Given those paltry numbers for the former First Lady on the issue of "trust," it would seem that many Democrats would dearly love to see another candidate challenge her for the nomination. And don't forget that Obama is flush with cash. He has a large, well run organization and is poised to take advantage of any Clinton misstep. If he can beat Clinton in Iowa, all bets are off and it will be a brand new race heading into New Hampshire where despite being far behind (Clinton holds a commanding 15 point lead) the Illinois Senator may attract a large number of independent voters who are allowed to vote in the Granite State primary for whoever they wish. This was John McCain's key to success in 2000 when he shocked George Bush by winning handily in New Hampshire. Given momentum coming out of Iowa, Obama may be able to pull the same trick.

All those who thought Hillary Clinton inevitable - including me - will have to start taking a second look and wondering if she really is as invulnerable as we all thought she was.