Yesterday, based on a conversation with some local Democrats, the Okie Gardener reported from Iowa:

"They had the following thoughts: (1) Anyone the Democrats nominate in 08 can beat the Republican candidate, except Hillary. So, Hillary must not be nominated. (2) When the dust clears Edwards will be the strongest candidate for the Democrats to put forward."

My Reaction:

First: My Mantra: Nobody knows anything.

Having said that, I think Hillary can win it all. She can be beaten if we get the right candidate, we play it smart, we get a couple of big breaks, and the stars align.

I think the local consensus that the Gardener encountered provides more insight into what is happening on the ground in Iowa--than a truly national judgment.

Edwards is working very hard in Iowa. His ambition to be president hangs on his success in the Hawkeye State. He cannot afford to lose there. He cannot afford to be out-campaigned there.

If Iowa Democrats were not leaning toward Edwards at this point, frankly, there would be no reason for Edwards to be away from his home and family.

In re Edwards: I have been reluctant to acknowledge his viability. To my mind, he lacks the seriousness to be President of the United States.

An aside: I felt the same way about Bill Clinton. I liked him (he fascinated me), but I considered him the kind of person one dated but didn't marry. Infatuation over true love. A host of Democrats famously saw George W. Bush as lacking "gravitas."

Of course, the obvious moral of those two stories: anything can happen. Nobody knows anything.

The Gardener reminds us:

"In politics perception helps to build reality. Nobody knows anything, but what people think they know matters. Hillary is in trouble in Iowa, not that it matters as much as it did with the current primary schedule. From my conversation, it would seem that she is in trouble with Iowegeans because they fear she is not electable."

The Gardener articulates a key point, and I agree completely. Objectively, it is easy to envision a scenario in which Edwards emerges.

As I have said, Edwards is banking on Iowa as a momentum-building, watershed moment in the race.

It is not a stupid strategy. Stranger things have happened.

As for Hillary in trouble, all of this is day to day. Nobody knows anything. But I'll pose this question, if you were running for president, who would you rather be than Hillary right now?

In terms of the importance of Iowa, I refer back to the Gardener's "perception and reality" formula. Iowa is only important as long as Iowa can convince the country and the candidates that Iowa is important.

I am not unsure how meaningful Iowa will be this time around. But as I have said before, I would darn-sure rather win the Iowa caucus or straw poll than lose it.

For more thoughts on Campaign 2008, click here and scroll down.