Obama, Huckabee now lead in Iowa

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee have taken the lead in pre-caucus polls in Iowa, shaking up an already-uncertain primary season that starts next month.

Both candidates surged ahead in the Des Moines Register polls that tracks the crucial Iowa caucus that often sets the pace for the Presidential race.

The new polls suggest problems for Iowa front-runners Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Four years ago, Democrat Howard Dean was considered the pre-emptive front runner but his campaign melted down after he lost to John Kerry, who went on to capture the Presidential nomination.

But the race remains wide open in both parties with large blocks of caucus voters telling pollsters they are undecided and could change their minds before the caucus day.

Reports the Des Moines Register about the Democratic race:

Barack Obama has pulled ahead in the race for Iowa’s Democratic presidential caucuses, while the party’s national frontrunner Hillary Clinton has slipped to second in the leadoff nominating state, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll.

Despite the movement, the race for 2008’s opening nominating contest remains very competitive about a month before the Jan. 3 caucuses, just over half of likely caucusgoers who favor a candidate saying they could change their minds.

Obama, an Illinois senator, leads for the first time in the Register’s poll as the choice of 28 percent of likely caucusgoers, up from 22 percent in October. Clinton, a New York senator, was the preferred candidate of 25 percent, down from 29 percent in the previous poll.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who led in the Register’s May poll, held steady with 23 percent, in third place, but part of the three-way battle.

The lead change appears after weeks of increasing criticism of Clinton by Obama and Edwards about her position on U.S. policy toward Iran and questions of her candor.

On the Republican side, the Register reported:

Mike Huckabee has leaped ahead of Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney in Iowa, seizing first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of likely Republican caucus participants.

Huckabee wins the support of 29 percent of Iowans who say they definitely or probably will attend the Republican Party’s caucuses on Jan. 3. That’s a gain of 17 percentage points since the last Iowa Poll was taken in early October, when Huckabee trailed both Romney and Fred Thompson.

Other poll findings indicate that the former Arkansas governor is making the most of a low-budget campaign by tapping into the support of Iowa’s social conservatives.

Romney, who has invested more time and money campaigning in the state than any other GOP candidate, remains in the thick of the Iowa race with the backing of 24 percent of likely caucusgoers. But that’s a drop of 5 points since October for the former Massachusetts governor.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the frontrunner in national polls, holds third place in Iowa at 13 percent, despite waging a limited campaign in the state.