John Zogby just sent out his latest daily tracking poll, and the headline is that Clinton and Romney are slipping and Ron Paul is gaining.
Between 30 December and 2 January -- on the Dem Side -- Hillary Clinton garnered 24%, Obama 31%, Edwards 27%, Richardson 7%, Biden 5%, Dodd 1%, Kucinich 0-1%, Undecided 5%.
On the Republican side, Huckabee pulled 31%, Romney 25%, McCain 10%, Thompson 11%, Giuliani 6%, Paul 10%, Hunter 1%, Undecided 6%.
We'll all know more tonight -- but on the Democratic side of the ticket, I'm just not sure what these numbers mean or should mean. It seems clear that there is no candidate yet that the Democratic Party really wants to coalesce around. The topsy-turvy nature of this close three-way race says something important.
Americans aren't happy with any of them as of yet. Hillary Clinton is both boosted and harmed by her last name, boosted and harmed by her extensive experience. Barack Obama has sizzle and traffics in "hope" -- but many Americans think that we need someone who's seen it all and knows how to remain level-headed in the most dire of times. Clinton scores better than both Obama and Edwards on the ability to take heat.
Edwards is also inspiring, a sculpted populist, but many Democrats fear that the failure to send a woman or black man to the White House at the most opportune time the party has ever had to do so will gut punch Democratic turnout in the November general elections. The thinking is that the absence of race and gender sizzle will stifle enthusiasm.
I think Hillary Clinton is going to be in this race for a long time, and may still win the primary. But one thing that should concern her team is the dynamic of an Edwards-Obama pairing, which is no where near happening yet.
There has been some subtle, behind the scenes flirtation and episodic moments of rejection between the Edwards and Obama camp. One Edwards insider told me that several months ago, Edwards was basically sending signals that he would take Obama as a running mate if Obama took the VP position. According to this source, Obama's emissaries flatly rejected the notion.
More recently, this same source tells me that communication has remained open between the camps and that the "deal" (though I hesitate to call it that as I don't believe anything has been formally arranged...but this is the word the source used) is to see who pulls first in the early primaries and who has dropped back. The suggestion from the Edwards campaign source is that Edwards would consider running in the No. 2 slot with Obama if Obama were dominating the early contests -- and vice versa if Obama was trailing.
I don't have a second source for this information -- but I trust the veracity of the comments made, general as they were.
I have a bit of a nightmare scenario that keeps me thinking about the question of steadiness, experience and the need for creative change in the White House. When I think through this lens, Edwards and Obama don't rank first -- but they also don't rank far behind Clinton.
I think that President Clinton, President Obama, or President Edwards are going to be challenged in ways few American presidents have been. Other leaders -- foes AND friends -- are going to kick the crap out of the new president, testing the resolve, decision making, and new boundaries of the next American era.
I really wish that there was some way to run Obama and Hillary together. Everyone tells me that this is impossible. But I'd like to see them partnered -- experience and vision. Steadiness and innovation. Intellect and intellect. Getting either of them to accept the second slot would be painful for all involved -- particularly everyone else who wants to compete for the VP slot.
But it is clear that there won't really be a clear winner tonight in Iowa -- at least I don't think so. The spread is just too thin.
What the polls say is that we really want a hybrid.
Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note