A Real Edwards Surge

Is John Edwards's surge a media-created phenomenon, a collective reaction formation to the media's desire to see a three-person race, or guilt for building up Barack Obama? Does the media really have that power?

Or are we seeing something more organic?

On Monday, the Edwards campaign recorded more e-mail sign-ups than almost any day in its history.

Over the weekend, the campaign was forced to add four new servers to handle all the web traffic.

Contributions are up online: Thursday and Friday, the two days after the debate, made for one of the highest 2-day totals they've seen in months. (He's been ubiquitous on national television -- morning shows and Sunday shows.)

Those are national totals.

What about Iowa? There are two metrics, one of which we don't have available: their hard count of confirmed caucus goers. The other is crowds.

Not only has Edwards been greeted by unusually large crowds for him, he is outdrawing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton head-to-head. In Des Moines Monday, Edwards drew 400 to Hillary Clinton's 200; in Mason City on Saturday night, Edwards drew 600 to Obama's roughly 300.

The campaign tracks undecided caucus goers through nightly rounds of phone banking: the Edwards folks claim they're hearing more about their campaign's unique holiday card than they are about HRC's Des Moines Register endorsement. (Note: HRC and Edwards's universes don't overlap too much, so it's not that surprising.)

Still -- at almost every event in recent days, Edwards has gotten standing ovations. At the end.

I've been to dozens of Edwards events since the beginning of the cycle, and I've seen such enthusiasm for him only a few times.

The Edwards campaign is not conducting nightly tracking polls, so advisers can't pinpoint
day-to-day movement.

Democrats with access to the internal polling data of some of Edwards's presidential rivals say that he may be winning back male voters he lost to Barack Obama and is consolidating his strength with the union electorate in Iowa.

Are we reading too much into the fact that Obama has started to peer in Edwards's direction? It is possible that the Obama campaign has detected a flight of soft supporters abandoning the nest. But it's also possible that Obama campaign wants to shave four or five points off Edwards's margins in order to solidify a lead they know they have.