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In Iowa, it's a whole other presidential race

  • Story Highlights
  • New KCCI poll has John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani leading in Iowa
  • Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each fell 6 points in Democratic race
  • Sen. John McCain once lead Republicans but now in third place
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The polls in Iowa are showing something very different from the national polls.

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Former Sen. John Edwards is running third in national polls, but he leads in Iowa.

The front-runners in the national polls are Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York among Democrats, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani among the Republicans. But there isn't any national primary. The race starts in Iowa, and national trends don't mean much in Iowa, where caucus-goers are famous for not being trendy.

Remember what happened in 2004 to national front-runner Howard Dean? He ended up losing Iowa. And screaming.

A new poll of Iowa caucus-goers by Research 2000 for KCCI-TV in Des Moines shows former Sen. John Edwards in the lead for the Democratic nomination with 27 percent. Sen. Hillary Clinton comes in second with 22 percent, and Sen. Barack Obama is third with 16 percent.

Clinton and Obama have both dropped 6 points since the last Iowa poll in May. What happened? Here's one theory from Edwards. "We've had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems that this country's faced," Edwards said.

If Clinton and Obama are down in Iowa, who's up? Undecided is up the most (6 percentage points). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is up 4 percentage points. Richardson's dogged campaign may be beginning to pay off.

As for Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, their top choice is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with 25 percent of the vote. Still-undeclared former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, comes in second at 14 percent, followed closely by Giuliani at 13 percent.

Romney's making a strong pitch to conservatives. "The most encouraging experience is going into a room full of people, having that room somewhat skeptical as you walk in, but then having a number of folks come up afterwards and say, 'You know what, I'm on your team now,' " Romney said.

If Romney's up in Iowa, who's down? Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain was leading the field in May, with 18 percent. Now he's coming in fourth, with 10 percent.

If Clinton loses Iowa, it will nick her image of inevitability. She'll have to rely on New Hampshire to make her "the Comeback Kid'' -- just as it did for her husband.

If Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire -- where he's also ahead -- he'll face a big test in South Carolina: Will evangelical Christian voters support a Mormon candidate? E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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