There is nothing like some good poll numbers to turn on -- or even turn around -- a campaign.
Barack Obama's run for the White House was sputtering just days ago. He was thrown back on his heels when the crisis in Pakistan threatened to expose him as a foreign policy neophyte compared to the steady hand image cultivated by Hillary Clinton. There was all sorts of talk about a "surge" by John Edwards.
Obama was drifting. His aides were making comments that suggested a loss was on its way.
One stressed the big crowds Obama was drawing, though big crowds were drawn by George McGovern in the last weeks of the ill-fated campaign against Richard Nixon. Mike Dukakis drew throngs to his appearances but they did not translate into victory in the polls.
Another aide complained about soft-money contributions going to Edwards and being used to flood Iowa television screens with pro-Edwards commercials. His campaign chairman spoke to reporters about Obama's future "viability."
Those are the kind of things losers say. Frontrunners never complain. They have the sun in the morning and the moon at night and couldn't care less what their opponents are doing.
Obama cared a lot about what his opponents were doing. He laced his speeches with attacks on Clinton and Edwards, even naming them, which crosses some imaginary line in political discourse.
But then, with the campaign bracing for another setback, came the Iowa Poll published by the Des Moines Register, the most influential paper in the state.
In an instant, frowns turned to smiles at Obama headquarters. Suddenly, once-sullen campaign officials were in a back-patting mood around reporters they had shunned 24 hours earlier. A fund-raising letter based on the polling numbers was mass-mailed 30 minutes into the New Year.
In Sioux City, a New Year's Day crowd of several hundred turned away from bowl games and came out to see Obama in temperatures that hovered near zero. Bigger crowd in Council Bluffs Tuesday night, again with temperatures as cold as a third place finish on Thursday.
Obama 32 percent. Clinton 25 percent. Edwards 24 percent. For the Obama campaign, that had a very nice ring to it.