John Edwards — Although his endorsement from Congressman Bruce Braley did not come as much of a surprise (Braley was a strong Edwards supporter in 2004), it will certainly help assuage fears among his supporters that his candidacy has lost its momentum. And, as revealed Monday morning on a conference call, the former North Carolina senator has recruited multiple precinct captains in 87% of Iowa’s precincts, demonstrating the continuing superiority of his grassroots organization.
(tie) Hillary Clinton — In our first Power Rankings, Clinton ranked third, but she has shown many signs of life recently that indicate she deserves a higher position. Her husband campaigned for her in Eastern Iowa last week, helping to shore up her supporters there; and she herself has spent time on the ground in less likely places reassuring leaners that she still takes Iowa seriously. Although her more aggressive attacks on Sen. Barack Obama may damage her already-low second-choice support, they should also reassure her supporters that she deserves their time and effort on caucus night. And the entree of Emily’s List’s new voter outreach program may be a help, as well.
(tie) Barack Obama — Upward Momentum — Polls have confirmed what we have felt anecdotally for a long time: that Obama’s message resonates equally well among women as it does among men, and that’s before Oprah Winfrey has even arrived. The gender and age gaps both show signs of closing, and his campaign’s crowd-building skills are unparalleled. His subtle criticisms of Clinton over the past month have forced Clinton to issue less subtle criticisms of her own, perhaps demonstrating the direction her campaign sees the race heading. If any candidate will usurp Edwards’s first-place position between now and January 3, Obama appears best positioned to do so.
Joe Biden — Upward Momentum — Biden has mastered the art of retail politics better than perhaps any other candidate in the race, and it shows not just in his campaign events but also in his organization’s ability to capitalize on social networks and the political capital of his endorsers. His base is more likely than any other candidate’s to actually attend the caucuses, and his second-choice support continues to increase.
Bill Richardson — Richardson has a large staff that has been building lists since June, but he lacks support from traditional activists and politicos around the state, as evidenced by his very short list of state legislative endorsements. His staff will not be able to do all of the necessary work for getting out the vote alone. And although he is committed very seriously to grassroots campaigning, he is unpolished and inconsistent on the stump.
(tie) Chris Dodd — Dodd’s campaign has been promising from the start, but his second-choice support still seems far stronger than his first-choice support. FIrefighters have been working diligently across the state to support him, but he will need a major shake-up in the race in order to advance. His focus on other candidates’ votes on bankruptcy "reform" legislation is promising, but attacking Edwards, Clinton, and Biden may cost him more than he gets in return.
(tie) Dennis Kucinich — Kucinich spent little to no time in Iowa in the first nine months of the campaign, but over the past week he has spent at least some time reaching out to his base of supporters from 2004. Although he has likely started too late in the game to build a strong organization, he may have shown enough signs of life here to reassure small factions of the electorate that he deserves their support.
Mike Gravel sorry Mike…