Clark Gains On Dean; Kerry Shows Signs of Life in Iowa
Donít look now, but we may have a race on our hands after all for the Democratic nomination. After weeks of pounding by his Democratic rivals, Howard Dean finds himself now only four points ahead of a surging Wesley Clark in the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll taken through Monday. Although the poll has a small sample size of 418 registered Democrats or Democratic leaners, and has a large margin of error of plus or minus five points, it shows that Dean has only a four-point lead over Clark (24%-20%) nationally, as compared to a fifteen point lead (27%-12%) just under three weeks earlier. Moreover, John Kerry has rebounded four points in that same period.
There are several interesting things about the recent polls and the state-by-state dynamics. First, this latest poll was done by Gallup apparently by phone of likely voters nationwide, and shows a lot of late movement. But in a Bush/Dean head-to-head matchup from this same poll, Bush trounces Dean by 22 points, 59%-37%, while beating an unnamed Democrat by a 56%-40% margin. Yet in a Harris Interactive poll done for Time/CNN through January 1, 2004 which I posted last week, Bush beat Dean by only 51%-46% amongst 604 likely voters nationwide. Why the discrepancies? Because the Gallup poll is done by telephone, and the Harris Interactive poll in which I touted Deanís movement last week was done through online surveys, something that got by me last week.
Second, as for the state-by-state results themselves, it is important to see late breaking developments. In New Hampshire, according to an American Research Group daily tracking poll, Wesley Clark (16%) has caught and passed John Kerry (13%) for second place, while Dean is trending downward (36%). It pays to note that Kerry has made an all or nothing gamble on doing better than expected in Iowa and put his resources there, while Clark has dumped a lot of his ad buys and time into the Granite State and as ARG notes is doing very well among men. ARG notes that there is a growing gap between Clark and Kerry over the last two days, and if Clark can increase his numbers with women, they believe that the state will be competitive. And there are signs that the media are following the pattern once again to knock down the front-runner, while reporting on new concerns from voters about him, concerns that are leading voters to look hard again at Clark and Kerry as alternatives.
However, it is in Iowa where even the Washington Post confirms that Kerryís gamble is paying off. Following up on stories earlier in the week by the AP, it appears that Kerry is not only gaining in Iowa but actually in a position to challenge for it, the Post notes:
Kerry's aggressiveness came amid indications from the other camps and from Iowa Democrats -- citing his larger crowds, effectiveness on the stump and signs of organizational strength -- that he has moved into a position to challenge both Dean and Gephardt, who for weeks have been in a head-to-head battle for first place here.
As the Post notes, Kerry does not have at his disposal cadres of union supporters to help at the caucuses as Dean and Gephardt do, although Kerry is offsetting this with a large number of veterans who are signing up to help the campaign. Nonetheless, it appears that Kerry is doing better in Iowa and moving into a position to at least grab second place.