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Iowa caucus forecast

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The Iowa caucuses are tomorrow. The New Hampshire primary is five days later. By the next Indy, both tales will be told—and if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama win both contests, the Democratic presidential nominee will be all but crowned. So, time for prognostication....

Will Edwards win Iowa? Yes.

Are you sure? No. But Oprah thrust Obama into the spotlight about a week too soon. It gave the Clinton campaign time to trash him (he's so inexperienced! and did you know, he did drugs!?), and gave Iowa Democrats a chance to contemplate whether Obama's the party's strongest candidate in '08.

Didn't the crisis in Pakistan help Clinton? Yes, by underlining Obama's foreign policy inexperience. But Clinton's claim to greater experience was hurt when The New York Times reported that she never attended a National Security Council meeting while Bill was president, nor even had a security clearance. It underlined Obama's complaint that her "experience" is mainly vicarious—but she doesn't represent "change," either.

And Edwards? Big break that he visited Pakistan as a senator; when he called the Pakistani ambassador, it led to President Perez Musharraf calling Edwards a few hours later.

Can Edwards survive a second-place Iowa finish? No. Because if Clinton wins, she'll win New Hampshire too and it'll be over. And if Obama wins, he and Clinton will remain 1-2 in New Hampshire (not necessarily in that order), with Edwards reduced to an also-ran.

If Edwards wins Iowa, will he win New Hampshire too? No. But he'll be in a dogfight with whoever does.

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