Front Runners Show Slippage
For those of you who rightly ignored the polls until we got closer to actual races, now is about the time for even you to start paying attention. And what you'll see is that the national front-runners are in trouble in both parties.
Tonight’s ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama taking a 30%-26% lead over Hillary in Iowa, with Edwards third at 22%. The result for Clinton is unchanged from July, with Obama’s new lead coming at the expense of Edwards. Bill Richardson is now a clear fourth at 11%. But the poll indicates that Obama’s hammering of Clinton in Iowa is working, with Clinton’s earlier lead on a range of issues gone, and she now trails Obama on the issue of integrity and understanding the needs of everyday folks.
In a CNN poll for New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has gone up 8 points and Rudy Giuliani has fallen eight, now down to third place behind a resurging John McCain. As TPM’s Greg Sargent notes, Rudy’s slide in New Hampshire is probably the reason why he has resumed pitching his 9/11 heroism.
Of course, we are seeing how the early contests can go against national polls and still influence the race as it winds along. Obama and Edwards, as well as Romney and to a lesser degree McCain are banking on winning or depriving the front runners of victories in the two early contests, forcing a change in the narrative that can lead to a momentum shift. And with the Post poll showing that Iowa participants now placing an increasing value upon change rather than experience, Obama's strategy shows signs of paying off. In my mind, he could close the deal in the remaining weeks by stressing his advantage as a transformational Democrat who could pull crossover votes next year and lead the Democrats to a significant victory in Congress.
By pulling even with Hillary on the issues, and neutering her claims on experience and readiness, Obama can return to the main argument he wanted to make all along: the country needs change and fresh faces more than it needs the status quo. Likewise, Romney is aiming to do the same on the GOP side, making both parties step out from behind the shadows of 9/11 to actually debate this country's future.