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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Is Hillary actually the frontrunner?

I have seen it again and again this week. "O, Hillary!" the press says. "Your legendary countenance has come! Your status as a million-pound gorilla is sure to ruin the formerly strong hearts of those that challenge you! And verily, you took all the money out of New York! And lo, the Washington Post says you are totally already winning and will be the Democratic nominee any day now." The national poll conducted by the Post and ABC News has Hillary ahead of everyone else at 41%. However, at this stage in the game, national polls barely do anything than register name ID. The only polls that matter right now are the polls from the first primary states, and in those states, the race is much, much closer.

So, for reference, here is the breakdown from the Wapo/ABC poll:

24. (ASKED OF LEANED DEMOCRATS) If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were: (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel), for whom would you vote?


                         1/19/07     12/11/06
Hillary Clinton            41           39
Barack Obama               17           17
John Edwards               11           12 
John Kerry                  8            7
Al Gore                    10           10
Wesley Clark                1            1
Tom Vilsack                 *            1
Evan Bayh                  NA            1
Bill Richardson             1            2
Joe Biden                   3            2
Chris Dodd                  *            *
Dennis Kucinich             1           NA
Mike Gravel                 *           NA

That looks pretty clear cut, but again, this is a national poll, with a random sample pulled from 1000 adults. These aren't likely voters, or even registered voters. Hence why I make the argument that this poll tells us name ID and nothing more. That is not to say that name ID isn't important - it most certainly is - but so too are the opinions of primary voters, and in this case I feel confident in asserting that here they are more important than national name ID.

To examine the numbers coming of out the first four primary states is to get a more accurate picture of where the contenders stand. For example, in Iowa, Strategic Vision conducted the following on January 19-21, 2007 from a sample of 600 likely Democratic caucus-goers:

If the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus were held today between, Joe Biden, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack, for whom would you vote? (Democrats Only; Names Rotated)

John Edwards 25%
Barack Obama 17%
Tom Vilsack 16%
Hillary Clinton 15%
Joe Biden 4%
John Kerry 3%
Wesley Clark 2%
Bill Richardson 1%
Chris Dodd 1%
Dennis Kucinich 1%
Undecided 15%
MoE: ±4 percentage points

Zogby has this from Iowa:

The Democratic survey included 596 likely caucus-goers and was conducted January 15-16. The margin of error is +/- 4.1 percentage points.


Edwards 27%
Obama 17%
Vilsack 16%
Clinton 16%
Biden 3%
Kerry 3%
Kucinich 1%
Richardson 1%

Two other polls, one from a TV station and the other fromHarstad Research have Edwards either in front (Harstad) or tied with Obama (KCCI). Only one poll, from the American Research Group, shows Hillary with the lead at 31%, with Edwards in second at 20%.

Edwards has been living and breathing Iowa for several months. An ongoing joke around here last summer was how Edwards had moved there, because he was in Iowa so often. Those inside the state say his organization is unparalleled. Barring some mammoth shift (which I concede is possible), you may see Senator Clinton skip Iowa, saying that it belongs to Vilsack. Vilsack, however, won't be the reason she begs off.

The updated calendar also works in Edwards favor. He won't win New Hampshire - if Senator Obama is still in it by then, he may have an even shot at beating Senator Clinton but it will be close, with Edwards coming in third. The disparity between the American Research Group and Zogby polls from the last month in New Hampshire says as much - Edwards is solid in third with Obama and Clinton trading the lead.

South Carolina, however, and Nevada, will be different stories. American Research Group ran polls in both states in December, with Clinton winning and Obama in second place in Nevada, and Clinton at 34% with Edwards right behind her at 31% in South Carolina. I don't think its a stretch to say that Edwards will win South Carolina, and I think he will be more competitive in Nevada than this data shows. I also think Obama will be far more competitive in South Carolina than this single poll shows.

So how about the rest of the calendar? If Edwards wins Iowa and Clinton competes there, that will eat the whole news cycle until the next week in Nevada. If Clinton skips Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire will become much more difficult for Edwards and may open some space for Obama to operate. If California moves up to February 5 like they want to, Clinton will win that and get some momentum back if Edwards wins Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire and Nevada are toss ups.

New Hampshire is currently in the process of trying to reassert itself as the mandated first primary state. The Democratic National Committee can penalize New Hampshire's delegate count if they go against the official calendar, which could really complicate things. If that ends up being the case, a win in New Hampshire earns you bragging rights and little else.

Assuming it isn't all over but the crying by February, here are the primaries we know are on the calendar thus far (from the Wikipedia):

February 5, 2008 - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah
February 10, 2008 - Maine (caucus)
February 12, 2008 - District of Columbia, Tennessee, Virginia
February 19, 2008 - Wisconsin

I don't think Maine would be a sure thing for anyone, but it is safe to say that if he's still alive by February 5th, Edwards will be a serious threat to contend with in all of those states. Likewise with Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin, where Edwards did very well in 2004.

The angle I have here is not necessarily that Edwards is the prohibitive frontrunner, or that Obama is gonna rip this thing out from under Clinton, but simply that a national poll is no indicator of how primaries will actually end up turning out. Primary polling indicates that the race is much closer than any national random sample of adults would indicate.

Edwards big on Kos

The Daily Kos faithful have voted for Edwards in the latest straw poll. And Senator Clinton is in the toilet.

Edwards 35
Obama 28
Clark 17
Richardson 5
Clinton 4

Wow. Who would have thought?

Wow. Who would have thought? I guess his populist message and youtubing are paying off.

That and...

...I saw the Kos link posted on Edwards blog site so I think some folks who probably wouldn't normally read Kos hopped over to the poll and voted for him. Oh the power that is the internet. Some candidates actually understand it.

Despite his relative lack of

Despite his relative lack of experience (well, he has enough to be a senator, doesn't he?), I like Obama.

If he doesn't get the Democratic nominee, I'd love to see him join the Edwards races as VP.

I think Obama is the VP no

I think Obama is the VP no matter who gets the nomination.

I'm iffy now

I don't like that he partnered with an anti-gay trio for votes.

That's not new politics and/or the politics of hope. Thats all of the far right's teritory.

Plus, it erroneously suggests that people in the south are supposed to be bigots.

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