I know it's unwise to make public predictions, and I also see the polls showing both Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee surging, but I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Democrat Hillary Clinton might still win this thing in Iowa, and that Mitt Romney is even more likely than she is to hold on for the Republican victory.

I'm much less confident about the Clinton prediction, so let me start with her. First, there's no doubt that we're going to see a turnout surge, and that's probably bad news for John Edwards. So the question becomes whether it's a major surge (good for Obama) or a smaller one (good for Clinton). And even if the higher turnout does not reach Obama-favorable heights, Clinton has the further problem of having fewer second-preference voters; like the rest of America, people either like Mrs. Non-Ambivalence or they don't. So, now that it sounds like I've talked myself out of this prediction, how is it she wins?

Well, I just don't think all of those young people and other newbies Obama is counting on will be there at the rates they expect. Maybe they--and he--will surprise all of us, and in that case Obama not only wins but very much deserves to win because he has proved he is the inspiring, transformative activist-mobilizer he presents himself to be; he will, in short, have earned the win. Also, and unlike on the GOP side, the organizational differences between Clinton and Obama are slight, and though she's not liked as a second choice she is strong with those who want her specifically. Overall, then, my gut says that seniors and women and regular Democrats should be a bit more reliable than the youngin's and the newbies and Independents.

Turning to the GOP, I still just don't see how the Huckabee team converts their late momentum and buzz into caucus support. The Huckabee operation is spartan and under-organized compared to Romney and his gobs of money, and to admit that fact and then turnaround and predict Huckabee wins is to reject all the conventional wisdom for the Republican race that is simultaneously being applied to the Democratic race. No, the parties and their rules are not identical: The lack of a viability threshold for the GOP obviates the sort of early, specific and detailed training of precinct captains Democratic winners need. But you still need bodies and resources to deliver votes. I'll stick to my Huckabee-peaked-too-late theory articulated here earlier.

UPDATE: If this is true, that Bill Richardson's camp is directing their people to go to Obama where non-viable, that changes everything and I cannot stick by my Clinton prediction. The Kucinich directive is one thing, and if it were either Joe Biden (rumored to be doing the same) or Chris Dodd making this move today, I'm not sure that would be a tipping point. But Richardson is fourth, and though down to 6 percent in the final Des Moines Register poll, his non-viable share is enough to break Clinton if those folks move to Obama.

--Tom Schaller

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