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Kristol Calling

10:21 AM, Sep 28, 2007 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Bill Kristol called in from the road to encourage you to read WEEKLY STANDARD contributing editor John Podhoretz's latest column.

Here's Pod's take on the Dems:

At this point, a little more than three months before voters show up in Iowa and New Hampshire, it's clear that none of Hillary's foes has the stomach to fight with her. Any that did would have been making a major issue on Wednesday out of her campaign's relationship with indicted mystery multimillionaire donor Norman Hsu.

Since none of them did, it's fair to speculate that they're all playing for second place already. Or that they're hoping she'll respond catastrophically in the wake of some unforeseeable event (as with President Bush and Hurricane Katrina), handing them an opening.

And here's Pod on the GOP:

The only way his rivals can take him down is for Giuliani to lose big in Iowa and New Hampshire. This, in theory, might cause a gigantic momentum shift toward someone else who could then obliterate Rudy's leads in the big states, maybe take Florida away from him and then change the plotline on Feb. 5.

So if Rudy wins in New Hampshire, then it's very, very difficult - absent the unforeseen event - to see how anyone stops him.

Rudy could win without the Granite State. But it's hard to see how he loses if the big story on the evening of Jan. 8 is Giuliani toppling Romney in New Hampshire.

This is the best articulation so far of the "frontrunner" theory of the race. That is, the national polls will end up determining the results of state races.

But Bill points out over the phone that there's just as much evidence that the frontrunner theory is wrong. Obama is within 5 points of Clinton in Iowa in the RCP average of state polling. And this is two months before the serious advertising wars begin. Who's to say that Obama or Edwards won't gain in the coming months and end up trouncing Clinton in Iowa, thus throwing the Democratic race into disarray?

On the GOP side, the CNN/WMUR poll certainly shows that Romney's early-state lead is soft. But Giuliani has only gone up by a couple of points, whereas McCain is surging and Thompson is in a comfortable fourth place without, well, campaigning.

In other words: This is the most volatile and open-ended presidential primary in recent memory.