Hillary Clinton‘s performance in the 10.30 debate made her seem vulnerable for the first time. And now Robert Novak is reporting that “an 11.6 Zogby poll of 502 likely Iowa caucus-goers showed Clinton’s lead had shrunk to three points — within the survey’s 4.5% margin of error. The narrowing, however, is mostly due to an Obama surge, from 19 percent in Zogby’s August poll to 25 percent.”

A N.Y. Times assessment, based on a Times/CBS News poll, finds the Democratic contest “essentially tied in Iowa” between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. The mind-blower is that a strong majority of respondents said that Obama and Edwards are more likely than Clinton to say what they believe, rather than what they think voters want to hear. And yet Clinton, respondents feel, is “the best prepared and most electable Democrat in the field.”

Silly me thinking all this time that likability — how high a candidate ranks according to Dating Game criteria — was a deciding factor among most voters.

The dream scenario is that Clinton comes in second to Obama in Iowa, and Obama takes this momentum with him to New Hampshire and South Carolina. Of course, the only way to really take her down is for Edwards to bail so everyone can rally around one Hillary-alternative candidate instead of two.