First, Barack Obama takes the lead at Political Derby, then he pulls ahead for the first time in a national poll. I think Rasmussen has a somewhat tighter screen than many pollsters on likely primary voters — the people who actually will take the time out of their day to show up on a cold January or February day and vote — but that’s probably more reflective of reality.

Hillary Clinton’s inevitability theme is shot. As we saw at the first Democratic debate last week, Obama is the real front-runner and everyone else knows it. When every candidate on the stage, including Mike “every question is about Iraq even if it’s about the price of milk” Gravel, is taking their shots at you, you’re the front-runner. “Joementum” Lieberman made that point when he lamented wryly in a 2004 debate that he wished someone would take a shot at him.

Of course, big questions remain for Obama: How will he hold up when everyone is focusing their fire on him? Will his younger supporters defy historical trends and actually show up? Can he close the gap in Iowa? Will Democrats believe that people who tell pollsters one thing on the phone will actually pull the trigger when the time comes?

Now we’ll see how Obama handles running out in front.


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