At 7 PM Central time, the doors will close in schools, churches, and rec centers and 200,000 to 300,000 Iowans will start to pick the presidential nominees for each major political party. The ultimate victor will lead the most powerful military and economy in the world. Without further puffery, I will tell you my predictions for order of finish and why (please tell me yours).
With word that Kucinich and Richardson will tell their people to walk over to the Obama camp if their group doesn't reach 15% in a particular precinct, and with the Des Moines Register poll showing lots of Independents and first time caucus-goers turning out for Obama, I have to say he wins this: 35-39%
John Edwards is a great closer, just ask all those attorneys for insurance companies who heard his closing arguments and watched their clients' money disappear. His organization is tested and familiar with the process: 30-33% [He hangs in the race until South Carolina]
Never count the Clinton's out, even with this disappointing 3rd place finish. Many new women voters showed up, but has Hillary herself argued, the format of the caucuses (where you have to stand up and explain/convince others why to side with your candidate) puts her core supporters at a disadvantage, even with Biden's caucus-goers being instructed to side with Hillary: 27-32% The loss is narrow, leading Bill to say they tied for second place and for Mark Penn to be fired.
The rest of the Democrats: Biden hangs around until he finds out that he isn't allowed in the New Hampshire debate, protests, then withdraws and endorses Hillary. Richardson hangs around until Nevada, and when he gets fourth place, he drops out, endorses Obama (hoping for a VP slot) Dodd also drops out shortly after Iowa and maybe even before New Hampshire. Kucinich and Gravel continue to "campaign" even though they are banned from the debates and kept off some states ballots (Kucinich refuses to unconditionally pledge to support the Democratic nominee so he is not on the ballot in Texas).
The Mittster's organization is second to none in Iowa and it comes through for him in a narrow win over the Huckster: 29-33%. Romney's people spin this as an amazing comeback, but all the media care about is McCain. Why? Because his bus was always loaded with free booze and McCain would allow them to talk to him all the time on that stupid bus. New Hampshire becomes a real battle against McCain who is sinking now with Obama's Iowa win that Indies will vote for the BHO.
Huckabee will utilize his evangelical email list, church vans and other outside groups to get his people to the polls. The lack of money and control over these outside groups leads to a narrow loss: 27-30%. He stays on until Florida, hoping that with the other Southerners out, he will retake control of the nomination from Romney or McCain. With the media and public's loses interest, he quickly fades back to obscurity.
McCain uses the Des Moines Register's endorsement and the lackluster nature of the other candidates to cantapult into a third place victory without even really campaigning there: 15-17%. Obama's strategy of expanding the universe of caucus-goers and getting the lower tier candidates to send their troops to his side of the room will dash McCain's chances of easy New Hamsphire victory.
Ron Paul's army of enthusiastic misanthropes, and all their cold hard cash propel Paul into fourth place in Iowa, slaying Giulliani, Thompson and the other losers: 10-15%. He gets moderate media buzz for doing so, but mostly about his supporters.
Giuliani gets 5th place and becomes a laughing stock by the beltway and New York media due to his stupid Florida strategy. His campaign continues to implode, with staffers leaking their tiffs to the press, and then leaving for Romney or McCain's camp: 8-12%
Thompson gets 6th place and has the greatest moment on the campaign trail when he gives a great concession speech, then flies up to New Hampshire and endorses McCain.
Duncan Hunter and whoever else is still there either drops out over even political junkies like myself forget they exist.