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Digesting The Cbs/nyt Poll

A couple quick thoughts about that new CBS/New York Times poll, which shows Romney up only 27-21 over Huckabee in Iowa (Giuliani's third at 15), and Hillary, Edwards, and Obama bunched at 25-23-22. (Both Romney and Hillary have big New Hampshire leads).

First, I think this is the appropriate time to extend a warm nose-thumbing to my friends over at The Corner, who sneered (see here, here, and here) when I suggested that, based on his showing at the Ames Straw Poll this summer, Huckabee would be an important player in the GOP nomination fight. As the incoming editor of Commentary memorably put it: "Anybody who says Ames matters must be smoking something illegal."

As for how this development affects the race, the person who's probably most alarmed by the results is Romney. If Huckabee somehow catches him in Iowa, we're looking at a dogfight between Romney and Giuliani and New Hampshire, which will have big implications for the rest of the race. Romney needs early momentum for his strategy to pan out, and Huckabee risks depriving him of it.

On the Democratic side, what we have here is tentative evidence that Edwards isn't hurting himself, and may be helping himself, with his tough anti-Clinton line. My hunch is that this is happening for three reasons. 1.) Edwards is pretty good at getting tough without getting nasty, a topic I explore in my print piece this week. 2.) Edwards hasn't taken on Hillary in a commercial, where, as Mark Blumenthal notes, the potential for fallout is greatest. 3.) Hillary has thus far decided not to hit back. As Mark points out, most of the historical examples of a candidate suffering for hitting a rival in a multi-candidate field involve the rival hitting back. That was certainly true in 2004, when Howard Dean gave as good as he got from Dick Gephardt, helping to destroy both of their campaigns. It doesn't appear to be happening this time around.

Update: In fairness, Rich Lowry, a Corner-ite in good standing, more or less shared my view on Huckabee and Ames at the time. In fact, I think this post came in response to the learned J-Pod pronouncements I linked to above.

--Noam Scheiber