Iowa update: New poll has things as tight as could be, as the ad wars continue

Yet another poll of Iowa -- and with only 6 days to go at this point we're getting in the last strech. Research 2000 just released its caucus survey:

  • Among Democrats, John Edwards is tied with Barack Obama at 29%, with Clinton right behind at 28%. The fourth candidate is Bill Richardson, far behind at 7%.
  • Among Republicans, the dual at the top continues and it looks like the few polls with a competitive McCain were outliers: Huckabee has 34% and Romney has 27%. Thompson gets 11% and there is a three-way tie at 8% between Ron Paul, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani -- which means that Ron Paul is in a clear position to come in third.
This is a major slide for Obama from the Research 2000 poll from two weeks ago. Then, Obama was up 9% with 33% against 24% for both of his rivals. That was at the time many polls showed Obama ahead by significant margins -- and as we have seen with ARG and Strategic Vision that time is now over. Clinton has risen back in contention, and Edwards has strengthened his position. As for the GOP side, don't forget that Romney's massively superior organization is likely to boost him by a few percentage points come caucus night. With that, let's look at some of the developments on the trail today.


One of the main dynamics of the campaign is now the feud between Obama and Edwards; two weeks ago, everyone was relentlessly pounding Clinton, but the attacks have now become more general. And that means that the race is even more a three toss-up today than it was two weeks ago. All candidates are going after each other, sensing that everyone is a threat. The only direction in which there is no attack: Hillary Clinton is staying away from criticizing John Edwards, since ultimately the Clinton campaign would not mind that terribly at all if Edwards won the caucuses, making him as much of an alternative than Obama and dividing up the vote.

In this context, the controversy over Bhutto's assassination is playing out dramatically in the Democratic race. Obama's adviser David Alxerod used the story yesterday to bring back Clinton's Iraq vote in the discussion. In response, Clinton blamed Axelrod for politicizing Bhutto's murder. This would all be the usual routine of the Obama-Clinton showdown, if it was not for John Edwards's decision to jump in... and defend Hillary Clinton! Edwards said: "It's ridiculous. It's a ridiculous stretch... We need to be a calming influence and not stoking the fire and certainly not be talking about the politics of this."

The obvious reason for this is that Edwards himself voted for the war resoution, so he is also indirectly being hit by Axelrod's contention that the Iraq vote of 2002 is the cause of all this instability. But he could very well have stayed out of this latest controversy. His choice to rush to Hillary's rescue reveals just how much Edwards and Obama now realize that they are dividing up some of the anti-Clinton vote that they need to somehow unify if they want to overcome Clinton.


Two noteworthy developments in the GOP race. First, Fred Thompson is back on air in Iowa. We had reported yesterday that lack of money had forced him to go dark, but that only lasted 24 hours as Thompson seems to have benefited from a cash infusion or to have realized that he needs to spend whatever he has left now or be out of the race by January 4th. You can view his ad here. This is clearly huge news for Thompson who needs a strong showing in Iowa, i.e. to come in third. Threatened by McCain's three-day blitz this week, Thomspon had to be worried about the ridicule of coming in behind candidates who had given up on the state months ago; at least he is now running an ad.

The second item is the ad war between Mitt Romney and Mke Huckabee. Romney is airing yet another version of the contrast ads he has been running against Huck for a few weeks now (you can view the ad here). The first two versions were centered on taxes and on immigration -- and this one mixes the two issues and attacks Huckabee on his readiness to be president. Huckabee answered in an ad of his own (view it here) denouncing the negativity of the attacks against him. Now, Huckabee is being pounded by all candidates and by the press that is unleashing a ton of oppo research against him. However much Huckabee complains about the harshness of the treatment he is receiving, he will need to fight back because his Iowa lead has clearly somewhat eroded and Mitt Romney still has an opening to surge ahead and carry the state.

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