This will probably be the last poll-related post until the January party primaries...
Iowa will hold its caucuses* on January 3rd. That makes this coming Thursday the most important date so far for the bagful of candidates hoping to become president.
The Des Moines Register's Iowa poll, lauded as the most accurate, came out tonight. Here are the results:
Barack Obama has stormed ahead of previous frontrunner Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, thanks, the Register says, new caucus-goers and independents. This might give Obama the national push he needs. John Edwards is a mere percentage point away from Clinton.
As you can see, Mike Huckabee has slightly widened his lead over second-place Mitt Romney in the Republican race. Giuliani is choosing to sit out the ever-important Iowa caucuses for a more national focus.
To find out more about how caucusing works, see the Des Moines Register's page on the Iowa caucus.
Nationally Clinton still maintains a relatively wide lead among the Democrats; Giuliani is still first among Republicans. Huckabee has done well in the polls, whereas Romney has invested most out of all the GOP candidates in both Iowa and another of the first primaries, New Hampshire, just to see his investment slip. As for Ron Paul, he's barely being mentioned in the mainstream.
Other points of focus:
See more primary stats on Slate's election scorecard and national averages on RealClearPolitics. Some people consider political trading more accurate than polls, since it just measures preference. One popular trading site is Intrade.
Need help reading or understanding all these polls? The Washington Post published five tips from the directors of polling at WaPo and ABC. The tips include:
1. Throttle back on the horse race.
2. Consider the source.
3. Watch for consistent change and a meaningful narrative.
4. Don't be seduced by averages.
5. Be skeptical of post-election scorecards.
In these coming weeks, we will no doubt see several candidates fall as the top three or four from each party vie for the position of leader. Remember: things are far-from predictable in races this close and mixed. Let the '08 election games (truly) begin!
* Correction: Word changed in title and blog post for accuracy. Iowa holds caucuses, not primaries.