The collective press corps is coming to agreement that Iowa is everything for the Democrats, meanwhile, what role the state will play on the GOP side is still getting sorted out by the conventional wisdom crowd.
VIDEO: NBC's Political Director Chuck Todd offers first read on Iowa polls.
Of course, the big news is the Des Moines Register poll, which showed Clinton now on top (first time she's been in the lead in this poll), Edwards slipping and Obama flat. On the GOP side, the candidates with something to gloat about this morning are Thompson (who surges to second) and Huckabee (who is NARROWLY ahead of Giuliani) in third.
The Des Moines Register reports that John Edwards is attributing lost ground in the latest poll to his rivals' heavy spending on TV advertisements in Iowa. "It's a little difficult to figure out where to go with me because I haven't spent any money on ads," he said Sunday.
(He actually said something similar and a bit more coherent on Saturday after his speech at the Johnston County BBQ: "Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are pouring millions of dollars into here, including millions of dollars on television" he told reporters. "We will run television here, I don't mean to sound holier than thou, but I don't believe caucus goers make their decision about who they're going to support based on television ads.")
Could one of the bigger reasons why Obama is flat and Clinton is surging is that she's tapping into the support of older women?
Notes Yepsen: "One reason for some of this movement lies in the demographics of just who plans to go to a Democratic caucus. Among likely Democratic caucusgoers, 62 percent are women, and Clinton carries more of them -- 34 percent -- than any other candidate. She finishes third among male Democrats, winning only 21 percent. The numbers prove what you can see in her crowds, which are often filled with older, working women. There seems to be power behind the unstated message that "it's our turn."
Obama is placing a big bet on attracting young people to the caucuses, despite the fact they're notoriously poor voters and caucusgoers. Only 2 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers are under age 25, while 51 percent are over age 55. On top of that, only 23 percent of the Democrats say this will be their first caucus.
Also, don't miss the stunning drop-off for Barack Obama among voters 65 and over. He leads Clinton by 6 points with voters under 44 (33% to 27% respectively), but he's a whopping 25 points behind her for the oldest demo. (He's at 11%, Clinton at 36%, Edwards at 20% favorability) That's a trend I've seen reflected in voters... One elderly woman in Iowa City told me that hope's all fine and good, but Barack Obama just doesn't understand that her entire Social Security check goes to pay for her husband's meds every month. And a number of older voters I talked to registered genuine outrage about his blowoff of the AARP forum. The Obama folks won't be happy I said it, but the average age of a caucus-goer is a heck of a lot closer to 65 than 18.
Clinton addressed one of her poorer poll showings in the Register, which indicated that both Edwards and Obama were stronger than her on "integrity and morality."
"In a democracy, you can make a judgment based on anything," Clinton said in a Des Moines Register interview in Anamosa. "But I'm gratified that a lot of people are really coming around to support me after they really get to see me as who I am."
Still, Clinton rated highest on the "characteristics of leadership, experience, toughness, intelligence and electability, with more than 40 percent of those polled seeing her as the strongest on each trait."
Des Moines Register's Yepsen blogs that the latest poll is bad news for Clinton and Romney. Why? Because they are ahead.
"If they win now, it may be shrugged off as no big deal because everyone "expected" it would happen. If they come in second or third, it will be pegged as a big loss because, after all, they were "expected" to come in first. Want proof? Go to any Clinton or Romney staffer or campaign leader today and tell them: It's great to see you're the frontrunner in Iowa. Watch them wince."
Want to get an understanding of just how serious the Democrats are taking Iowa? The field collectively has approx. 500 paid staffers on the ground. Yes, 500 staffers. Wow. NBC-NJ's Carrie Dann breaks down the Democratic staff and endorsement primary in the state.
Chicago Tribune's McCormick notes the attention the Democrats have given the state. "So far this year, Edwards has been to 80 of the state's 99 counties, while Obama has been to 56, according to their campaigns. As of Friday, Clinton had been to just 31, her Iowa spokesman said." The piece goes on to note how the candidates are pushing themselves to visit the most rural parts of the state because as many long-time Iowa observers know, the 15% "threshold" rule is just as meaningful for succeeding at a caucus precinct, whether in highly populated Johnson County, or sparsely populated Washington, Iowa.