Special Return of Obamamania edition:

  • Yesterday's ABC News/Washington Post poll showed a slight shift up for Barack Obama in Iowa, and a slight downward shift for John Edwards. A key graph to think about:

    despite widespread impressions that Obama is banking on unreliable first-time voters, Clinton depends on them heavily as well: About half of her supporters said they have never attended a caucus. Forty-three percent of Obama's backers and 24 percent of Edwards's would be first-time caucus-goers. Previous attendance is one of the strongest indicators of who will vote.

    This has been widely intepreted as a sign of Clinton's weakness in the state, but worth recalling here is that in recent elections the Iowa caucuses have been 40 to 60 percent first-time caucusers, and that John Kerry's success in the state in 2004 was predicated in part on the choices of these newbies. According to the ABC News entrance survey of caucus-goers (PDF):

    Kerry won the initial preference of first-time caucus-goers, while Edwards and Dean roughly tied for second in this group. (First-timers made up 55 percent of participants, up from 46 percent in 2000.)...Kerry and Edwards had strong appeal among late deciders: Forty-one percent of caucus
    goers “finally decided” in the last week; of them 39 percent gave their initial preference
    to Kerry, 35 percent to Edwards, just 14 percent to Dean and six percent to Gephardt.

    The campaigns are working with internal turnout estimates that are much higher than the 2004 final numbers on the theory that the percent of first-timers could be even higher than in the last cycle. Certainly the crowds at the other major events on the Democratic calendar have all been of the biggest ever variety. What this says to me is that both Clinton and Obama could be well-positioned to win if they can also secure a base of experienced caucus-goers, and have any kind of momentum in the week after Christmas. (Obama is doing better than Clinton on both these counts at present.) John Edwards, on the other hand, will have trouble winning if the caucus-attendee universe expands because of his apparent inability to expand his pool of supporters beyond those who've come out in the past.

  • Obama narrows the gap with Clinton in New Hampshire, as well -- mainly because she's fallen, rather than because he has gained new support.
  • Obama and Clinton go at it over the question of their respective foreign policy experience.
  • President Bush predicts that Clinton will nonetheless win the Democratic nod -- then lose the general election.
  • Via Ben Smith, who was making a different point, this Obama CV reminds (as has a commenter and former Obama student on this site) that Obama was never a law professor, only a non-tenured law senior lecturer, no matter how professorial he may on occasion seem.
  • Jeff Zeleny reports that Obama is smartly wooing the small-circulation local Iowa papers: "There is, perhaps, no better way to give an hourlong presidential visit far greater staying power than appearing on the pages of the weekly newspaper, particularly in an edition that is likely to be sitting on coffee tables at Thanksgiving time."
  • And Obama's new Iowa ad this week launched the long-awaited "Chapter Two" of his campaign with a non-biographical focus on economic issues affecting working and middle-class voters:

--Garance Franke-Ruta