Only one candidate could wow David Yepsen, and that one was Barack Obama. "The passion he showed should help him close the gap on Hillary Clinton by tipping some undecided caucus-goers his way," Yepsen writes in his Des Moines Register blog. "His oratory was moving and he successfully contrasted himself with the others -- especially Clinton -- without being snide or nasty about it."
It's a nice little wave for Obama -- but now his challenge is to keep the momentum going in these two weeks before Turkey Day helps lull us into political torpor.
And another element to add to Clinton's tough storyline: the incredible shrinking New Hampshire lead. Her lead is sliced down to just 11 points in the new Marist poll, and 9 in the University of New Hampshire/Boston Globe poll.
"The poll shows that Clinton's support has dropped as Obama and Edwards have stepped up their criticism of her positions and her forthrightness -- attacks that have escalated since the presidential debate late last month, where they accused her of equivocating on illegal immigration and other issues," The Boston Globe's Scott Helman writes.
"Voters polled believe Clinton is less 'trustworthy' than Obama -- 19 percent said she was the most trustworthy candidate, compared with 26 percent who said Obama was," Helman continues. "Only half of those who said they would vote for Clinton listed her as the most trustworthy."
Asks the New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff: "Where did Hillary Clinton's mojo go? That's what her campaign has to be asking after a rough two weeks. And more importantly, they have to be wondering how to recapture that fading aura of an unstoppable juggernaut."
Edwards isn't moving much in the polls these days. (Was that really Joe Trippi leading Obama staffers in bellowing their new chants at the bar of the Hotel Fort Des Moines Saturday night? And if John Mellencamp doesn't draw Edwards-style Democrats -- Mr. "Small Town" himself -- what kind of concert could Edwards avoid the boos at?)
Newsweek's Richard Wolffe finds Edwards losing key supporters in Iowa. Four county chairs tapped by the Edwards campaign have defected, in addition to a few other prominent Iowans. "Four years ago, news of defections hurt Dick Gephardt over the summer and Howard Dean just before caucus night," Wolffe reminds us.
There's a conundrum emerging for Obama and Edwards. The Boston Globe's Marcella Bombardieri: "Despite the apparent emphasis on Clinton, Obama and Edwards are competing most of all against each other to come out of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus, on Jan. 3, as the only viable alternative to Clinton," Bombardieri writes. "The three are more or less tied in Iowa polls, but Clinton is so far ahead nationally that it is hard to see both of them finishing Iowa with momentum to challenge her for the Democratic nomination." Bombardieri notices Obama attacking Edwards, but Edwards refusing to return fire.
This is an anti-Clinton storyline they can agree to push together: "Hundreds of pages of memos and correspondence involving the healthcare plan of the early 1990s have been withheld, leaving a gap in a historic period when Clinton undertook one of the most ambitious domestic policy forays ever attempted," the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas.