This headline in the Washington Post today:

"Three Top Democrats Share Lead In Iowa Poll;
Clinton, Obama, Edwards Are Tied"

Jon Cohen and Dan Balz report:

"Less than six months before Iowa voters open the 2008 presidential nomination battles, the Democratic contest in the Hawkeye State is a deadlock, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards in a virtual tie for first place, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

The full story here.

My Analysis in brief:

1. It is still very early--but this race (especially in Iowa) seems to be taking shape. These polls are starting to count.

2. Bad news for Edwards. This is the state in which he is best-positioned for success. He is well-known, popular, and a proven vote getter in Iowa. More importantly, this is the state on which he has placed all his chips.

I have already recorded my skepticism on this strategy, but Edwards is hoping to win in Iowa, generate a groundswell of momentum, and ride the wave of victory in the caucus to victory in the other state primaries that closely follow.

To review: this is a long shot at best, as the caucus in Iowa will probably have much less positive influence on underdogs as in times past. Why? The primaries are configured in a completely different way this time around. They are frontloaded and compressed, which requires a massive and powerful organization to compete everywhere simultaneously. This is not good for insurgent campaigns.

Having said that, Edwards is now losing momentum in Iowa--where he must emerge as surprisingly strong to have any chance. You may ask if this is the chicken or the egg, but, ironically, this new three-way poll affirms the recently emergent storyline of a two-horse race.

3. Good news for Hillary. A few weeks ago she was squelching rumors that she would not contest Iowa. As the Post story contends, and as the Okie Gardener's onsite reporting asserted, Iowa is not a good fit for the Clinton candidacy. She does not play well in Peoria. That is, Iowans seem unimpressed, suspicious, and unfriendly to her personally.

However, she is grinding this one out: four yards and a cloud of dust. There was much discussion a while back regarding Bill's coming to Iowa. The punditry wondered: Was this too soon? Probably not. Switching sports analogies: start your ace in game one, and you can possibly start him again in four and seven. Bring the heat early and often. All that to say, the Clinton team realizes Iowa is big. Bill Clinton might make the difference in a close race; it would be foolish to leave him on the bench.

The bottom line: Candidate Clinton can overcome a loss in Iowa, because she has the best organization. She is prepared to compete in every state primary over the following three weeks. However, a win in Iowa would be huge for her. She can overcome a loss in Iowa--but a win might clinch the aura of inevitability.

With Certainty: If John Edwards does not win Iowa, he is finished.

Less Certain: Barack Obama. If the Illinois senator, a favorite son from a neighboring state does not win in Iowa, he will be damaged. However, he will have plenty of money with which to dust himself off, get back in the race, and go on to New Hampshire et al with vigor.

One other note of interest: Bill Richardson broke through to double digits in this poll. Insiders see Richardson as a serious person. Perhaps this gives him hope in the VP derby or for a top cabinet slot.

UPDATE: A big Texas welcome to Instapundit readers. Browse around and make yourself at home. For other stories of possible interest, click above on "Campaign 2008" or here and scroll down.

Also, for a view of the FISA vote in the Senate last night, see here.