From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
*** Polling aficionados beware: With a mere 15 days until the first contest, there are now so many pollsters surveying voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, it's hard to know what's right or wrong. In the last 12 hours, two Iowa polls showed two dramatically different results. One (Washington Post/ABC) had Obama in first and another (Insider Advantage) had him in third. Edwards was in third in one (Washington Post/ABC) and first in the other (Insider Advantage). What gives? Many things: turnout, the makeup of the electorate the pollster used, and the history of that pollster surveying the state. Our advice: Look at the trends of the pollsters who have surveyed the state for multiple cycles, and be careful of pollsters who haven't polled Iowa before. Speaking of polls, don't miss the latest CNN-WMUR poll showing Clinton back to having a double-digit lead after showing her up just one a week or so ago. What does that poll tell us? There's a chance that good pollsters get quirky results. Looking at that poll's trend line, it appears the one-point poll was the outlier.
*** The holiday spirit: The weather outside may be frightful, but most of the messages on Iowa TVs appear to be remaining delightful -- with Obama joining Huckabee with a holiday spot (his daughter even says "Christmas"!). Giuliani apparently will be up with a holiday spot soon as well. But there is one candidate who isn't letting the holidays stop his negative messaging. Mitt Romney is staying aggressive against Huckabee. When asked whether he thought the voters would be turned off by negatives during the holidays, Romney said he thought voters would respect the importance of the election. We'll see... Let the grand holiday experiment begin...
*** What is Ted Kennedy thinking? The timing of the Huffington Post's unearthing of Obama's Ted Kennedy criticism is intriguing. Is Kennedy's endorsement of one of the Big Three imminent? There are cases for him to go with any of them: He no doubt likes Edwards' populism, Obama's charisma, and he certainly respects a political dynasty. Of course, Kennedy may not endorse anyone until his closest friend in the race, Chris Dodd, either surges or drops out. And speaking of big endorsements, when is that John Kerry nod we keep hearing is ready to go going to come out? And if there are no endorsements today or tomorrow, does that mean we won't see any major endorsements pre-Iowa for fear that they won't get the attention of Iowa voters? Or will we see a slew of big announcements on the 27th and 28th going into the final weekend?
*** Bias alert! The Washington Post's Howie Kurtz asks a question that will likely drive a lot of discussion today: Has the press been nicer to Obama than Clinton? Kurtz quotes a couple of journalists who certainly think so. While it's pretty obvious that Clinton, her husband, and her campaign have received much more scrutiny in the past couple of months after the Philadelphia debate, couldn't it also be argued that in the spring and summer -- when Clinton was soaring in the polls, when she was receiving little scrutiny on the shift in her Iraq views, and when the media praised her debate performances -- the press focused squarely on Obama (his experience, Rezko, Michelle Obama's comments, donations from state lobbyists, D-Punjab) and Edwards (the hedge fund, the haircut, his Chapel Hill home)? Also, don't front-runners always get more scrutiny? After all, look at the attention Huckabee is now receiving. And just asking: Is it fair for a couple of reporters to speak for the entire press corps?
*** On the trail: On the Democratic side, Biden, Clinton, and Dodd spend their day campaigning in Iowa, while Edwards, Obama, and Richardson are in New Hampshire. On the GOP side, Giuliani stumps in the February 5 state of Missouri; Huckabee is in Iowa; Hunter is in Michigan; McCain appears in Boston with Henry Kissinger and James Woolsey before heading to New Hampshire; and Romney and Thompson campaign in Iowa. Also, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are in Iowa.
Countdown to Iowa: 15 days
Countdown to New Hampshire: 20 days
Countdown to Michigan: 27 days
Countdown to Nevada and SC GOP primary: 31 days
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 38 days
Countdown to Florida: 41 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 48 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 321 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 398 days
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