The following is from the Dec. 29, 2007, edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. SMU Political Science Professors Matthew Wilson and Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

Just who's calling Iowa horse race anyway?

Cox Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON Take a look at national polls for the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, and two trends quickly take shape.

Rudy Giuliani is running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney to head the GOP presidential ticket next year. And Hillary Rodham Clinton is running away with the Democratic nomination, trouncing Barack Obama by 20 percentage points or more.

In Iowa, though, where caucus-goers will gather Thursday night to cast their lot, Obama leads Clinton by 4 points in a recent poll, Giuliani is struggling to hold onto fourth place and Mike Huckabee is in the lead.

Just who's calling this horse race anyway?

"At this stage, the national numbers matter very little," said Matthew Wilson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "The polls in the early states matter a lot more."

There are good reasons, it turns out, for the sharp differences in state and national polling, and a strong consensus among analysts like Wilson that, for the moment at least, it's the numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire that count.

Americans in most places are paying only casual attention to early campaigning by the 16 - at last count - Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. . .

And Iowans, pollsters have found, tend to keep their cards close to their vest, keeping poll ratings fluid right up to caucus night.

"Only about one-third of Iowa voters say that their preferences are fixed, the rest of them are open," said Calvin Jillson, professor of politics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"About one-third make up their minds in the last week and about one-third make up their minds in the last day or so," he said. "So those polls can be off."

Read the full story.

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