Today, Iowa Independent releases its second round of Democratic Power Rankings, seeking again to answer the question, "If the caucuses were held tonight, what would be the results?" Our hope is that although our methodology is notably unscientific, the list below will provide our readers one more point of reference while reading horse-race stories from day to day.
Although much has happened over the past two weeks, a lot has stayed the same. Polls, which fail to account for many important variables, continue to show the top three contenders in a dead heat in Iowa. Candidates have all spent significant amounts of time here at campaign appearances and forums. Field staff continue to make their calls, identifying new supporters and retaining as many previously identified supporters as possible.
Our focus in compiling these lists is largely on organization, one of the single most important indicators of caucus success. But this week, we have also added indicators of candidate momentum in the cases where we feel it is warranted. As history proves, momentum is as powerful a force as any other in the last month of the presidential campaign in Iowa.
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.