Here's a quick-take on what it all means:
1) POLL FATIGUE
Both frontrunners -- Hillary & Rudy -- have seen their national numbers fall over the last month. Of the two, Rudy's seem more troubling for his candidacy. That's because the Republican race remains much more fluid than the Democratic race, where there are 2 main contenders. The smart people remind us it's very hard to poll Iowa. Don't fall into the trap of believing Obama is the new man to beat in Iowa. If anything, it's probably still a virtual tie. The latest PEW poll has Clinton back up 31-26%. There's still more pressure on him to win than her. Oh, and Marc Ambinder reminds us that if the Iowa caucuses were held tonight, based on organization alone, John Edwards would win.
2) THE HUCKABEE SURGE
The national media is discovering this week what we knew back in April. That Huckabee is a likable, credible conservative candidate who would become a contender at some point. (Ok, so maybe I wouldn't of bet on him leading Iowa this soon but . . .) Huckabee is everywhere. Hardball. The cover of USA Today. Nightline. But now the hits will come hard and fast. Has he peaked too early? My guess is that Huckabee, with his wit and charm, will be able to weather the attacks that will come. He's already proving he's turned his Iowa candidacy into a national one. USA Today and Rasmussen both have him 2nd in national Republican polls. I can't imagine him doing that well in New Hampshire (based on the state's poor history of supporting southern candidates), so South Carolina could be the place he makes his stand. One more tidbit about Huckabee in Iowa: he's confident. How do I know? His schedule shows he'll spend less time there over the next few weeks, and more time in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
3) LOWERING EXPECTATIONS
The only candidate who doesn't HAVE to win Iowa is Hillary Clinton. But Mitt Romney is now trying to convince you otherwise. The guy has spent $7 million dollars in Iowa to Huckabee's estimated $300,000 and now he's telling The Washington Post a "top-three" finish would suit him just fine. He's the tortoise to Huckabee's hare? Wow. And a top-two finish in New Hampshire? Romney has looked at his sagging numbers and is starting to lower expectations. Don't buy that he doesn't need to win Iowa. He does, and based on organization alone, he still should. You think his upcoming speech on his faith has anything to do with hearing the footsteps?