Unexpected results from the DMR

UNEXPECTED RESULTS FROM THE DMR….It seemed as if the political/media world had finally settled on a narrative for the Iowa caucuses — Hillary Clinton had a reasonably solid lead, John Edwards had the big mo and was in position to pull the upset, and Mike Huckabee was sinking fast.

Of course, of all of that may still be true, but the highly-anticipated poll from the Des Moines Register doesn’t fit the narrative at all.

Among Dems, Barack Obama is in the lead with 32% (up from 28% in early December), followed by Clinton with 25% (unchanged), and Edwards with 24% (up from 23%). No other candidate had more than 6% support, and Obama’s seven-point lead is the largest any Democrat has enjoyed in any DMR poll this year.

Among Republicans, Huckabee leads with 32% (up from 29% in early December), Mitt Romney is second with 24% (down from 26%), and John McCain is third with 13% (up from 7%). Rudy Giuliani has dropped to a distant sixth place with 5% support — four points behind Ron Paul.

There’s no shortage of analysis about What It All Means, but here are a few points to consider:

* The DMR poll isn’t exactly in line with other recent numbers from the state, but it’s generally the most respected poll in the state, and has a strong track record for accuracy. (The caveat to this, of course, is that all polling over the holidays is inherently tricky.)

* Ben Smith notes the makeup of the poll participants: “The Register poll is including a surprising 40% of independents and 5% of Republicans among the people likely to attend the Democratic caucuses. If that pans out on January 4, it’s hard to see how Obama wouldn’t win. On the other hand, as David Yepsen points out, Hillary is actually winning among Democrats, who made up 80% of the caucus-goers last cycle.”

* The Edwards campaign is arguing that the poll is exaggerating the likely participation of first-timers, which may very well be true.

* Noam Scheiber raises a very interesting point about self-fulfilling prophecies: “[T]he Register poll isn’t just a description of what’s going on. More than any other poll, it actually influences what goes on. Iowans will wake up [today] to find a headline that says, ‘Obama Widens Lead Over Clinton.’ And, human psychology being what it is, that may well push them into the Obama camp Thursday night.”

Stay tuned.