Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iowa Updates

Weekly Presidential Politics - 12/12/07

(Note, over at Presidential Politics for America, I am doing daily updates regarding the upcoming Iowa Caucus)

Here are the two major Iowa polls released this past weekend. This clearly frames the upcoming week into two main stories.
1) Huckabee vs. Romney in an elimination caucus.
2) Clinton vs. Obama, with Iowa as a microcosm.

From Mason-Dixon (December 3-6):
Huckabee - 32
Romney - 20
Thompson - 11
McCain - 7
Giuliani - 5 (!!!)*
Undecided - 19

From Newsweek (December 5-6):
Huckabee - 39
Romney - 17
Thompson - 10
Giuliani - 9
Paul - 8
McCain - 6
Undecided - 8

Analysis on Republican polls: Both Romney and Huckabee, as well as the rest of the Republican Party, surely know this - unless Rudy Giuliani completely falls apart in national polling, there is only room for one candidate to be strong enough heading into Super Tuesday to compete on a national scale. Romney and Huckabee also know that both of their hopes rest on Iowa. A second place finish for either one is unacceptable and is a prelude to a death knell in New Hampshire.

Romney needs a victory there because he has outspent the rest of the field combined in Iowa, and to still lose despite the money advantage would be a huge hit to his credibility in the subsequent primaries. Huckabee needs a victory because his recent appeal across the country has been directly related to his surge in Iowa. If he loses Iowa, it would presumably be because Iowa voters became disillusioned with him, and if a guy like Huckabee can't win a state like Iowa, then he is not going to win a country like the United States.

*An explanation of my exclamations. Giuliani is now consistently polling single digits in Iowa, placing fourth and fifth in most polls, and going in the wrong direction to boot. The cause of this, aside from him never having a good shot to win the state anyway, is that he has pulled money, staff, and other resources away from Iowa to deploy them in states (New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina) where they would be more useful. Be prepared to hear from the Giuliani campaign that they put very little effort into Iowa, which would serve as the explanation as to why the Giuliani message did not resonate with Iowan voters.

From Mason-Dixon (Dec. 3-6):
Clinton - 27
Obama - 25
Edwards - 21
Richardson - 9
Biden - 5
Undecided - 11

From Newsweek (Dec. 5-6):
Obama - 35
Clinton - 29
Edwards - 18
Richardson - 9
Biden - 4
Undecided - 5

Analysis on Democrat polls: Examining the most recent results of the last seven major Iowa polls (Newsweek, Mason-Dixon, Strategic Vision, Zogby, American Research Group, Des Moines Register, Rasmussen) taken in the last two weeks, Obama leads four of them, and Clinton leads three of them. If you average the results of those seven polls, Obama leads by a miniscule 1.6 percentage points, practically meaningless in the world of polling data.

What makes this tightness all the more interesting is that these are becoming two decidedly different types of candidates. Not only do they clearly identify themselves as the candidate of change (Obama) and the candidate with experience (Clinton), but in the past few weeks, they have attacked the other for basically what their opponent is touting about themselves. Obama chides Clinton as partaking in politics as usual (experience), and months ago he famously referred to her as "Bush-Cheney light." Meanwhile, Clinton consistently blasts Obama as being drastically under-experienced (change) to be the President of the United States.

These two platforms are so strikingly different, yet in Iowa, the two candidates are fascinatingly tied in polling. Though Clinton still holds double digit leads nationally, losing to Obama in Iowa when they both are putting so much effort into the state would undoubtedly help Obama and hurt Clinton in votes, momentum, money, legitimacy, and undoubtedly other categories. Of course, it would not ruin her campaign, but in a primary that is shaping up to be the closest in a generation, even a slim Iowa loss would sting a lot more than Clinton would ever let on.

(And don't forget about John Edwards.)

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