3 new caucus polls: 7 days from New Hampshire, all eyes are on Iowa

It's only the first day in 2008, and it's hard to imagine that not only Iowa is voting in 2 days, but New Hampshire is just around the corner as well. In a week, we will know the results from both early contests -- but (almost) everyone is in Iowa. The NH Secretary of State was obsessed with making sure his state gets the attention it supposedly deserves, but for now it has been forgotten.

And with that, we get three new polls from Iowa today, and the Democratic results are very different from yesterday's DMR poll as Clinton is leading in two and Edwards in one. But we for once know exactly the reason of these variations, as the weirdness of the DMR model (60% first-time caucus-goer, 40% independents) is now well-documented and is based on a turnout of between 180,000 and 200,000, hugely superior to 2004. It's not an impossible turnout, and if it happens there is no doubt Obama would win the day.

The first poll comes to us from CNN and was conducted Dec. 26-30, more or less the same dates as the DMR survey:

  • Hillary Clinton is ahead 33% to 31% with Edwards crashing at 22%. Two weeks ago, it was 30 for Clinton, 28 for Obama and 26 for Edwards.
  • In the GOP, Romney is ahead 31% to Huckabee's 28% and Thompson manages to take third place at 13%, with McCain at 10%. Ron Paul and Giuliani both get 8%. Two weeks ago, Huckabee was up 33% to Romney's 25%.
The second poll is the latest delivery from Zogby's tracking numbers and they have little movement since yesterday:

  • Hillary Clinton stays at 30% followed by Obama at 26%. Edwards gets 25%. Yesterday it was 30-26-26.
  • Obama does get a bit weaker among second-choice preferences, as Edwards leads 30% to Obama's 22% and Clinton's 15%.
  • Among Republicans, Huckabee holds on to a 29% to 25% lead with McCain at 12% and Thompson at 10%. Yesterday, it was 29-27-13-8.
And third is an Insider Advantage poll which only released Democratic numbers -- with Obama very far behind:

  • Hillary Clinton leads 30% to 29% for Edwards and 22% for Obama. And in a fascinating set of numbers, Edwards gets a solid lead when the second-choice preferences are plugged in: 41% to 34% for Clinton and 25% for Obama. What more proof do we need that gaps are going to be created very quickly come the end of the caucuses and delegate allocation? Note that Edwards got a total of 11% from realignment!
  • Two weeks ago, the numbers were 30% for Edwards and 26% for Clinton and 24% for Obama, so some movement in Clinton's favor here.

  • As for the GOP race, the pollster refuses to release the numbers: "I’ve seen enough GOP polls in 28 years to know when some sort of shift is taking place. The Republican numbers right now are all over the place and, in my experience, that means the numbers probably won’t settle until immediately prior to the voting." The last Insider Advantage poll had Huckabee up 28% to 25% on Romney, so keep that in mind when hearing about "some short of shift."
The analysis of the Democratic numbers of these polls has basically been done at the start of this post: If Obama manages to inspire enough independents to come out and vote for the first time, he will likely pull off a win; if the turnout model stays closer to what we are used to seeing, look at these three polls for an indication of where things might be heading and things then look better for Clinton.

Among Republicans, Huckabee is barely holding off at this point and many polls are showing Romney back in the lead. Even the DMR survey had some signs of trouble with Huckabee's supporters less committed to going to vote on Thursday night than Romney backers. With that, Huckabee's hypocritical move yesterday could be very important. I had started to link to local media stories to get a sense of whether they were as brutal with Huck than the national press corps.

Marc Ambinder finishes the job today and finds out that they weren't at all: KCCI, for example, the Iowa affiliate of CBS, reported that Huckabee decided to not go negative and still aired a portion of the ad! Which, of course, was exactly Huckabee's intention and hope: Get credit for being positive and the benefits of going negative. Compare that to the AP story that does not shy from using the word "hypocrisy."

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