Things are starting to clarify. After Obama's robust rally, he's begun to fall again slightly and Hillary shows improved strength. Edwards continues his slow, steady incline. Since we know that the days just before the election in Iowa are more important indicators than the months leading up (by many factors), this is critical news. Based on what we're seeing right now (and we won't know if this trend holds--since it's still polling from two weeks ago), these are the three most likely scenarios I envision. For Obamaniacs like me, we best hope that Chris is able to rally the troops. Here goes.
1. Edwards wins.
One of my assumptions is that there are really two major camps, the Hillary and the not-Hillary. While some define themselves as (in particular) "Edwards voters," only a small portion have Hillary as a backup. Instead, if Obama rallies and Edwards is in trouble and the winner looks like it will be between Hillary and Obama, they may bolt. But I think the bolting is more likely to go in the Obama to Edwards direction, especially if he is successful at poaching the under-15s, those voters who support Biden and Kucinich and so on. Edwards has two advantages over Obama in the "not Hillary" crowd: he's strongest in rural districts, and his brand has the most solid backers. I think it's going to be an exciting day, and Edwards will capitalize on a lot of the hope that Obama's been running on.
2. Hillary wins.
Hillary's numbers shouldn't be overlooked. The major late-tracking shift is headed her way. I don't know why or what propels it or whether it's solid, but it's real. Iowa watchers should avoid dismissing it. However, she is the weakest in rural districts, and there's reason to believe that in Iowa, her support is the most provisional. So she has cause for concern.
3. Obama wins.
I regard this as increasingly unlikely because of what Hillary's rally suggests: Obama is losing votes to Hillary based on overall electability and experience, and to Edwards on populism and economic liberalism. When the horses start to trade, I think he's in the weakest position to make the argument that he's the best candidate. The way it looks to me, he's a number two for both Hillary and Edwards voters, but that won't help if he's not in the top two.
While I formerly thought a shocker like a Biden rally was possible (third place for him, beating one of the titans, would be considered a serious victory), it just doesn't seem to be in the polls. Something to watch, though.