After months of campaigning, the first real test of the 2008 presidential campaign takes place Thursday in Iowa.
"I think it's probably more important for the Democrats at this point than it is for Republicans," says Hamline University's David Schultz.
That's because the race on the Democratic side is too close to call. A new MSNBC/McClatchy Newspapers poll shows former Senator John Edwards, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are in a three-way statistical dead heat.
For all three, a win in Iowa means major momentum.
"Edwards has hung his entire campaign for almost the last year on doing well in Iowa," Schultz says. "Obama is hoping for some momentum from Iowa to take him into New Hampshire. And Clinton can't afford to stumble in Iowa after being the frontrunner."
That's not to say Iowa isn't important to the Republicans, too. In fact, it's incredibly important for the two frontrunners: former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
The latest polls show Romney is surging while Huckabee is dropping.
"Huckabee needs to do well in Iowa," Schultz says, pointing out that he isn't polling as well in other primary states.
Huckabee typically doesn't talk about his opponents, but on Sunday he spoke out against a Romney ad that called Huckabee a big spender who's soft on immigration.
"His attacks have not only been desperate, but dishonest," Huckabee says. "We feel like it's time to respond and set the record straight and tell the truth."
Rudy Guiliani is not campaigning in Iowa. He seems to be focusing a lot of time and energy on Florida, which will hold a primary at the end of January.
John McCain is focusing a lot of his attention on New Hampshire, where his campaign is resurging.
"If he does well there, he'll probably be back in the ballgame," Schultz says.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty campaigned for McCain in New Hampshire this weekend. It's proof that in Iowa and beyond, the races are wide open.
"For both Democrats and Republicans, the voters have just not found a candidate they really want to center on at this point," Schultz says.
The MSNBC poll found one-in-five Democrats and one-in-three Republicans could still change their minds before the caucuses on Thursday.
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)