Senator Obama is the frontrunner
The polls, the momentum, and the general moods of the campaigns make it clear: Sen. Barack Obama is now the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination. A tightening in the polls was to be expected, as the actual election drew near, but this has been more than that. For Sen. Clinton, this means real trouble. For Sen. Obama, this means a level of scrutiny he has not before experienced.
The relentless, and often vicious and vile, attacks on Sen. Clinton have been excused by some as the inevitable and necessary vetting of a frontrunner. It will now be Sen. Obama's turn. The asinine assaults by people like Billy Shaheen will become more frequent, but so will legitimate questions and critiques. To some degree, Sen. Obama has benefited from the desperation of people who want mostly to stop Sen. Clinton. The anti-Hillary crowd has coalesced around the man deemed most likely to be able to stop her. Now, people will really start looking at Sen. Obama's record. Some may not like what they see.
As eriposte has pointed out, on both Iraq and Iran, Sen. Obama's record is not substantially different than Sen. Clinton's. That he opposed the Iraq War before he was in the political position of actually having to vote on it is not as important as what he has done since he has been in that position. And then there is that inability to promise to remove all our troops by 2013. It's one thing to be the not-Hillary, but another to stand the scrutiny of his own record. As people pay more attention to Sen. Obama's stands on the issues, they may discover that many of the questions they have about Sen. Clinton also apply to Sen. Obama, and they may begin looking for someone who is neither.
The past several weeks have seen a dramatic shift in the electoral landscape. The story is about the stunningly sudden collapse of Sen. Clinton's seeming inevitability, and about Sen. Obama's confident surge to the front. It will not be surprising if Sen. Clinton turns it around, and arrives in mid-February as the presumptive nominee. It also will not be surprising if Sen. Obama sweeps the early states, and quickly takes command of the race. But a third possible result should also not be a surprise. By mid-February, the current media narrative of a two-person race may be rendered obsolete. By mid-February, we may again have a three-way race, with any of the three equally likely to win or lose.