The latest polls for the Democratic candidates for the caucus race in Iowa are all over the map. According to the website RealClearPolitics, Clinton is leading in the Zogby, American Res. Group, and Strategic Vision polls, while the Mason-Dixon poll shows Edwards ahead (by 1%) and the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) poll of 500 likely voters showed Obama and Edwards deadlocked at 29%, with Clinton at 28%. All of the margins of error were slight. Clinton did not have a commanding lead in any of the polls in Iowa. In other words, this is still very much anyone’s ball game on caucus night, January 3rd, especially amongst the Democrats.
The Iowa Republican candidates shake out with Romney ahead in the American Res. Group poll, the Mason-Dixon poll and just 1% behind in the Zogby poll. The Quad CityTimes poll shows Huckabee at 34%, with Romney at 27%, the largest lead for the Arkansas governor. The Strategic Vision poll places the race between the two men at 27% for Romney and 29% for Huckabee.
Average(s) given for all five of the polls for Democratic candidates were: 28.4% for Clinton; 26.4% for Obama and 25.8% for Edwards. The pollsters asked 934 likely voters for Zogby; 600 for American Res. Group; 400 for Mason-Dixon; 600 for Strategic Vision; and 500 for the Quad City Times poll.
When the averages for the Republicans were computed, Romney had an average of 28.2% to Huckabee’s 27.6%, with McCain…who has barely campaigned in the state…. at a distant 11.4% and Thompson (who has campaigned in the state, albeit half-heartedly) at 11.0%.
A born-and-bred Iowan (educated at the University of Iowa), who owned and operated 2 businesses in the state for close to 20 years, and who has attended rallies for candidates on both sides of the aisle this election year and in 2004, the feeling that I get, on the ground here (at least in the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois) is that people just do not “like” Hillary Clinton, although they respect her intelligence and her experience.
If having intelligence and experience were the sole requirement for the Democratic standard-bearer, however, Joe Biden would be doing better. Right now, Senator Biden is running fifth behind Richardson with 5.2% to Richardson’s 6.2% average on these polls. On the Republican side, the experience factor surely should go to McCain, who is running a distant third in Iowa and barely campaigned here.
The people with whom I speak, personally, at Democratic AND Republican rallies voice several refrains:
1) “I won’t vote for Hillary, no matter what.” “Why?” I ask them. The voters tell me they don’t “like” her. This is something networks have dubbed the “Q” factor. Hillary doesn’t have it; Bill (apparently) can’t give it to her by simply showing up at her side and holding her hand. In watching an Obama rally from Newton, Iowa on December 30th (on C-Span Live), immediately followed by a Clinton rally from Maquoketa, Iowa, the interest level(s) in the rooms could only be described as dropping drastically from his speech to hers. The Clinton crowd…(which was also noticeably smaller)…was polite. They did not seem very enthusiastic. In fairness, the Newton crowd (for Obama) was not as rowdy as the one in Davenport, Iowa, when he spoke to them on the 28th, but Obama was head-and-shoulders above the former First Lady when you watched the expression(s) of interest on the faces of the audience members.
2) Obama has an eloquent inspiring, upbeat message of hope and has assembled a team of heavy-hitter advisors that most remind of JFK’s brain trust team. A reporting team from Rockford (IL), whom I asked, said that, of all the rallies they had attended, Obama’s were the most enthusiastic and crowded. They also commented on the youth and the ethnic mix of his gatherings. In a state with 3 million people, of whom 95% are Caucasian, the ethnic mix might not seem important on caucus night, but, if the youth who are involved in the campaigns follow through and vote in the caucuses, it could get very interesting very fast on January 3rd.
3) I went from an Obama rally to an Edwards rally in the same night. I simplycounted the television tripods set up: the Tripod Test. It was undeniable that Obama won the tripod race that night, although the crowds were not that different, in terms of size and enthusiasm. There were more African-American audience members at Obama’s rally, but the youth at the Edwards rally were just as prominent and just as committed and enthusiastic. Iowans have had a much longer time to get to know John Edwards, after all. And John Edwards has given Iowans some very specific answers to their very specific questions. Perhaps the potential caucus-goers are reserving their final moments before the vote for the candidate from Illinois who will have spent only 83 days in the state, rather than the one who has run, almost non-stop, since the last election and has visited every single county (of 99) twice?
4) Edwards and Romney, respectively, have the “Presidential” look that both parties would like their standard-bearers to present to the public.
5) “Trust” is an issue, for many, with the voters expressing distrust of several of the front-runners (Clinton, Romney, Giuliani, et. al.)
Can I make any predictions about this race simply from covering it primarily in this river corridor of the state?
Not today. Not with Biden and Dodd on my schedule (again) in the next two days, and the Television Tripod Test for Romney just completed (7…which is good, but not as good as Obama did, in Davenport).
I’d go so far as to say that the two front-running Democratic men (Edwards and Obama) are in very good shape in Iowa and that Romney—who, let’s face it, has spent huge dollars here—is going to do well, despite the early-on Huckaboom predictions. If you’re a political junkie, it’s going to be a horse race right down to the wire, and the second-place finishers here will be just as important as the winners.