Iowa: Edwards Surges, Huckabee Slumps

If there’™s one thing that both the Dem and GOP party faithful can take from past Iowa caucuses, it’™s that pre-caucus polls shift daily, and that until the caucuses are finished on Thursday evening, no one is a front runner. However, there are a couple of clear trends that have emerged, and are reflected in a McClatchy / MS-NBC poll released today: John Edwards is surging, and Mike Huckabee is slumping’¦

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Iowa Poll - McClatchy MS-NBCA McClatchy / MS-NBC poll released today tells the story of a volatile election dynamic that has emerged in Iowa.

According to the poll, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama are in a dead heat on the Democratic side. What this tells us is that on January 3rd, the ground organizations for each of the candidates are going to have at least some impact on the outcome.

So, how does ground game stack up for each of them?

According to Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, here’™s a breakdown of paid staffers for each of the candidates:

Edwards: 175

Obama: 300

Clinton: 400

Of course, these numbers don’™t take into account the number of volunteers who are working for each of the candidates – it would be nearly impossible to develop statistics on those who are canvassing neighborhoods and phone banking out of sheer conviction for their favorite candidate – but in terms of paid staff and local organization, it would appear that Clinton has a fairly clear advantage. It’™s hard to say how that advantage might play out on caucus night.

There is no question, though, that Edwards is finishing strong. As previously noted, second choices mean a lot in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, and the McClatchy / MS-NBC poll analysis actually provides a bit of insight in the all important category of second favorite candidate. John Edwards has very strong support as a second choice:

The second tier is particularly important in Iowa’™s Democratic caucuses, where a candidate can win delegates only if they register at least 15 percent support in each town hall-like precinct meeting. Voters whose candidates don’™t make that threshold can support someone else.

As of now, that appears to help Edwards.

If all second-tier Democratic candidates fall short and their supporters switch to other candidates, Edwards gains the most, rolling up a clear lead at 33 percent to 26 percent each for Clinton and Obama.

His trend of increased support is also reflected in All Spin Zone’™s own (admittedly unscientific) poll that’™s been running in the center menu column of ASZ since our endorsement of Edwards.

ASZ Second Choice Poll StatsWhat’™s surprising about ASZ’™s poll, though, is the strength of Dennis Kucinich as a second choice, and that Clinton and Obama both rate so weakly as second choice candidates. Does the congressman from Ohio really have that much underlying support? If so, he could be a wildcard and spoiler in the Democratic race. But, it’™s doubtful that he makes it past the first round in most caucus locations, given that he’™s polling so low.

On the GOP side, Iowa’™s brief flirtation with fundamentalist candidate Mike Huckabee appears to be evaporating as quickly as it developed. Perhaps that’™s a natural outfall of the general weakness of all GOP candidates; perhaps it’™s the manufactured uproar over Huck’™s fairly liberal positions on undocumented workers / illegal immigrants. Regardless, the race will certainly continue to see polling swings right up until voting time. Still, the strength of Mitt Romney’™s resurgence in Iowa has perhaps been somewhat unexpected. It would appear as if the local GOP party bosses are starting to take some direction from their national corporate controllers, and steer the party faithful away from the sectarian populist candidacy of Huckabee.

Interestingly enough, the GOP votes by secret ballot, whereas the Democratic caucuses are wide open affairs. So, polling is probably a much truer reflection of a GOP front runner than on the Democratic side.

The mad scramble for Iowa bragging rights will reach a crescendo in the coming few days. And then, the hotels will empty, the campaign offices will be downsized (or shuttered entirely), and Iowans can be left blissfully alone for the next 18 months.

Then it starts all over again.

Sunday, December 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

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