Big Mo From The Iowa Wave

Results from the Iowa caucus this year mean more than ever before because of the pushed-up primary schedule and because there is no runaway favorite son running there who would skew the results, pollster John Zogby tells us. "Iowa matters," he said, "more this year than ever before." Zogby dubbed the January 3 caucus the "Iowa wave" because it will wash over New Hampshire and the other early-voting states right before they take up primaries and caucuses.

"Iowa takes on even more importance. The wave is even bigger," said Zogby, who's out with a new poll today showing Mitt Romney and Sen. Hillary Clinton leading Iowa. In past years, Iowa voting has been followed weeks later by the New Hampshire primary, giving losing candidates time to regroup.

But this time the New Hampshire primary comes days later, and the bulk of elections will happen within a month, giving Iowa added importance in giving momentum to the winners. As a result, he said, candidates like Republican Romney and Democrat Clinton, who've invested much in Iowa, must do well.

"He has to win Iowa," Zogby says of Romney. Ditto for Clinton, he said, who's in a three-way tie with Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards. Should she somehow come in third, he added, Clinton could be toast. "I don't know how you spin a third," said Zogby.

By Paul Bedard