Despite it's famously arcane
and volatile nature
I am going to stick my nose out and predict Edwards to win Iowa, with Obama 2nd and Clinton 3rd.
Further I am going to predict a winning margin of 3-5 points, with perhaps another 5 point to Clinton. I am much more solid on Clinton finishing 8-10 behind the winner than the first and second place margin.
My reasoning? Well here goes...
Primaries, especially caususes, are party primaries, not general elections, and draw from partisan voters. Those voting are dedicated democrats (or republicans in the Repub caucus).
Among partisan democrats, Hillary Clinton is not well liked. She is remembered as a hard person to deal with who doesn't like being questioned and doesn't take advise well. Plus, as much as Democrats remember Big Dog fondly, I think a lot of them blame the Clintonista's for focusing too much on building their own partisan base to the detriment of the Democrat party.
Now, Obama is charismatic and people like him. He's a great speaker. But the increased scrutiny on his policy initiatives, campaign rhetoric
and voting record in Illinois are revealing him to be, well, pretty conservative and pro-business (by that I mean he seems to buy into the idea that corporations have the same rights as individuals and are naturally moral). His defenders seem to either a) ignore the evidence presented to them and rant on about how we need to have faith in The Obama or b) attribute this analysis to a misunderstanding of Obama's tactical genius which will bring all the low-information independents
and disenfranchised republicans by putting a soft face on the Dem party.
But, as Howard Deam learned to his dismay, Iowa is won with the support of partisan democrats and Obama seems to be losing support among that group. If Obama wins in Iowa I suspect it will be due to the votes he gets from "non-viable candidate" supporters.
That leaves Edwards who is, in fact, the mosr liberal/progressive candidate and has proven support, i.e. people who have a history of showing up at the actual caucus and voting. His weakness is that none of the non-viable candidates seem to be inclined to support him.
So there you go. Feel free to let me know how wrong I was.
Update I: Looks like prediction is kind of sorta looking good
. The margins look right, and my specific prediction about Hillary finishing way back in 3rd looks correct. As I said, I suspect Edwards to win, but wouldn't be surprised if Obama pulled it out on the strength of 2nd round votes which appears to be the early trend.