ARG shows Clinton and Romney leading, as Huck continues to sink on foreign policy

Six days after its pre-Christmas poll that showed a 14% lead for Clinton and a tightened Republican race, ARG releases yet another survey from Iowa taken from December 26th to the 28th. The previous poll was criticized for being taken during the week-end preceding Christmas, and at least this survey was in the field at the same time as other polls like the Research 2000 one (and probably the DMR one as wel). It will make it harder to dismiss the results of this poll:

  • Hillary Clinton is still ahead, 31% to 24% for both John Edwards and Barack Obama. The race has tightened since Monday but Clinton's lead is still larger from what we have seen from other institutes.
  • In the GOP race, Mitt Romney is now in the lead and has jumped up to 32%. Huckabee holds at 23%, while McCain comes in at 11%. Thompson has 7% and Giliani and Paul are at 6%.
In the Democratic race, most polls are showing a tied race -- and candidates are swapping leads, though it is noteworthy that ARG is the only polling group that has shown any kind of significant lead (both times for Clinton) in the past 10 days or so. One thing we should keep in mind: It is likely that Clinton has to come in the caucuses with a few points lead to hope for the win given that she still looks to be the weakest on second choice preferences. 

As for the Republicans, it is hard to believe that Romney has that big of a lead now, but don't forget that the private poll reported by Novak this morning also had Huckabee slipping and Romney taking the lead. If anything, this confirms that the GOP race is still very much open: Huckabee probably peaked too early, and is now trying to keep his lead alive and survive the ponding he is taking from the rest of the field and from the press. And, as I have already said before many times, don't forget that Romney's organizational edge is going to help him catch up at least a few points come caucus night.

Huckabee has 5 more days to hold himself together. His fall has been predicted many times before, with every new negative story that has come out and that was presented as the beginning of the end for Huckabee. It is undeniable that his surge has been halted by thedeluge of negative stories on immigration, Arkansas pardons; but the consequences have not yet been too dramatic. But he is really hurting himself now with his foreign policy errors.

Since Bhutto's assasination, he committed many mistakes relating to Pakistan. And instead of being extra-careful as a result, Huckabee just fed the press mill further by saying that John Bolton, Bush's former UN ambassador, was part of his foreign policy team. He described him as someone with whom he has “spoken or will continue to speak.”. The problem: Bolton responded that he has never spoken to Huckabee... This was a complete unforced error, and one that Huckabee should have no problem avoiding especially wen he is drawing extra-security on foreign policy.

Update: Marc Ambinder suggests that Huckabee's foreign policy mistakes are making him look even more authentic to GOP voters in Iowa. While that might be a stretch, there is no question that Huckabee's surge was in the first place due to the fact that Republican voters are unhappy about all their other choices and have only felt passion for Huckabee. That passion and aura of authenticity that Hucakbee is carrying with him is bobviously what is protecting him from the pounding he is receiving and has allowed him to survive a month-long deluge of negative stories. That said, there is a point at which even "authentic" candidate must pass a competence test; and whether or not Huckabee is qualified for the job (he was after all governor of a not-that-small state, so there is no reason to think he is less qualified than someone like Romney or Obama), his mistakes have got to hurt him. If anything else, they mean that Huckabee is losing a news cycle which is never good 5 days from voting.

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