THE NOTE: Humanity Hurdle:

Consider these five facts as you delight in these final 15 days before actual real people cast actual real votes that will determine the course of the future of this nation:

1. Each of the first three Republican contests could be won by a different candidate (and the national frontrunner could easily go 0-for-3).

2. Iowa is a full-on, absolute, no-doubt-about-it three-way Democratic dogfight (and the three keys to victory are turnout, turnout, and turnout).


3. Both of the national frontrunners now trail in the lead-off state -- and both are on about their fourth new strategy of just the past six weeks (and that's not even counting Rudy Giuliani's donning of a red Christmas sweater).

4. The same candidate who's most likely to drop a Jesus reference is also most likely to reference Paul (as in McCartney).

5. Even at this (extremely late stage) certain high-profile candidates are facing the very same questions they faced when they jumped in the race. (Ask Mitt, Rudy, or Hillary to explain.)

But first, fresh numbers: The ABC News Washington Post poll out Wednesday morning pegs it at Obama 33, Clinton 29, Edwards 20 in Iowa, with none of the other Democrats cracking double digits.

That's the same four-point margin that separated Obama and Clinton a month ago, though they seem to be pulling away (if only slightly) from Edwards in his must-win state.

It's -- surprise -- Sen. Barack Obama's fresh direction vs. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's change and experience.

"Likely caucus-goers are increasingly polarized between these two themes," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes.

"Obama's enlarged his already sizable lead among those looking mainly for new ideas and a new direction. But Clinton's gained among those focused on strength and experience, and has eased some of her recent negatives on forthrightness and empathy."

It will all depend -- surprise -- on who shows up Jan. 3. "In a race that could hinge on a campaign's ability to motivate voters to brave wintry conditions and spend hours attending caucuses, each of the leading contenders appears to enjoy distinct advantages," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post.

"More of Obama's backers said they are certain to participate than did those who have gotten behind Clinton. But Clinton's supporters are the most committed and enthusiastic, and Edwards counts among his supporters experienced caucus attendees who are more likely to turn out again."

This is what happens when support of the single-digit candidates is spread among the second choices: Obama 37, Clinton 31, Edwards 26.

And the latest out of New Hampshire: Clinton's back on top, 38-26-14 over Obama and Edwards, in the CNN/WMUR New Hampshire Primary Poll. (Camp Clinton can exhale now, briefly.)

On the GOP side, it's Romney 34, McCain 22, Giuliani 16, Huckabee 10, Paul 5, and Fred Thompson inhabiting Tancredo-Hunter land with 1 (!!!) percent of the vote.

In the fast-shifting message wars inside and outside Camp Clinton, now she just wants people to like her -- and here comes Hillary the human being.

"Mrs. Clinton has embarked this week on a warm-and-fuzzy tour, blitzing full throttle by helicopter across Iowa to present herself as likable and heartwarming, a complement to her 'strength and experience' message that the campaign felt a female candidate needed first," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.

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