It's that time of year again. No, not Christmas, but the
sprint to the finish in those all-important early primary states of Iowa and
New Hampshire.

That's right. In just five short weeks, the longest
presidential campaign in history will actually have its first votes. To
celebrate the season, nearly every pollster in the United States is coming out
with their take on which candidates will win, place and show in the first two
legs of the presidential triple crown.

Grabbing the biggest headlines of the last week, Illinois
Senator Barack Obama has replaced his colleague, New York Senator Hillary
Clinton on top of every major poll in Iowa. Is this really news, though? I
mean, really, the race has been going on for the better part of a year already
and it would be only natural for the polls to fluctuate, right?

Anyone who has been paying attention to politics in the last
few months knows that any major change in the polls — especially on the
Democrats side — has been actually quite unusual. Since the major announcements
of the candidates, there have been only two national frontrunners: Hillary
Clinton for the Democrats and Rudy Giuliani for the Republicans. Mr. Obama and
former North Carolina Senator John Edwards have spent the entire year jockeying
between the second and third positions among the Democrats. But now for the
first time multiple polls have shown that Hillary Clinton is not the inevitable
Democratic nominee.

Despite the media's shocked reaction at the change in the
polls, no one should really be shocked by this.

Mrs. Clinton, though certainly in possession of one of the
best national organizations in American political history, is disliked and even
despised by a large portion of the American people. The idea that she would
have an uninterrupted coronation in her race to the White House has always
seemed a little absurd to me. Indeed, many liberals with whom I have discussed
the presidential race have admitted to me that they quite nearly refuse to vote
for Mrs. Clinton. So the notion that someone could overtake her is not really
that farfetched.

Also, we need look no further than four years ago to
understand just how wrong the polls can be — not only about "frontrunners," but
also about all the candidates in general. Does the name Howard Dean sound
familiar? This was the man who was going to change everything. He had the
"Deaniacs," he had the online fundraising, he had the youth energized, he had
everything — except the votes. Polls going into the Iowa caucuses showed Dean
was likely to win comfortably, but he didn't. He lost. John Kerry somehow
pulled off an upset and went from a distant fifth to a solid win. Is it so
inconceivable that something similar could happen this year?

There are many other examples of underdogs coming from
behind to win in Iowa. In 1972, George McGovern was receiving less than 5
percent in the national polls less than two weeks before Iowa, and somehow he
went on to win the nomination.

The truth is that with the new compacted primary schedule no
one knows what is going to happen after Iowa and New Hampshire. Will the winner
— or the surprise finisher — get a bigger bounce into South Carolina and
"Tsunami" Tuesday? Or will the schedule favor national polls?

The answer is that no one knows.

On the Republican side, with no one really separating
themselves from the field, well, the field is wide open. Anyone, with the
exception of Congressmen Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul — sorry guys,
but the good doctor just doesn't have a chance — has the potential to win the
nomination. The polls in the early states change so often that I don't even
know why they keep on conducting them. The race boils down to this: None of the
candidates is perfect, but there's something to like in all of them so we — Republicans
— have no idea who we will vote for.

It really just comes down to who works for it the hardest
and who gets there at the right time. So sit back, ignore the polls, ignore the
talking heads on TV who say they know who will win, ignore everything you just
read if you want to and wait for the only poll results that matter: the ones on
election day.

Mike Hahn ([email protected])
is a senior majoring in political science and history.