Obama gets a bounce while Democrats avoid too much negativity (not Republicans)

Post-Iowa data is starting to come in and the biggest poll news today is Rasmussen's survey of New Hampshire with the biggest Obama lead we have seen yet all year in any NH poll:

  • Barack Obama comes in with 37%, followed by Clinton's 27%. Edwards gets 19% -- so Clinton is now closer to third-place than to first in this survey.
  • Among Republicans, McCain has the lead: 31% to 26%. But the huge surprise is Ron Paul's 14%, the highest number he has reached yet, and putting him third ahead of Huckabee at 11% and Giuliani at 8%.
The last Rasmussen poll was released on December 19th and had Clinton up 31% to 28%. How much of this is due to an immediate bounce that will fade as days go by? After all, there is only 5 days between Iowa and New Hampshire which leaves very little time for Clinton to work against Obama's momentum, even less time than Howard Dean had 4 years ago. Meanwhile Suffolk and Zogby updated their tracking polls today with the first numbers that are -- partly -- taken after the caucuses. Movements here are much smaller but keep in mind only a part of the sample was polled after Iowa:
  • Zogby has the Democratic race slightly tightening, with Clinton ahead of Obama 32% to 28% with Edwards at 20%. Richardson gets 7%. Yesterday, it was 32-26 for Clinton.
  • Among Republicans, the race is tightening as well. Yesterday, McCain led 34% to 30%, with Huckabee at 10% and Giuliani at 9%. Today, McCain gets 32% and Romney 30%, with Huckabee at 12%.
Now, the Zogby poll was taken January 2nd to 4th, and Zogby says only 20% of the sample was polled after the caucuses. Zogby added that among the 100 people polled on the 4th, Obama was up 8% and Clinton down 4% -- but those numbers obviously have a gigantic margin of error so we'll have to wait a big longer to know how much of a bounce Zogby is measuring.

Meanwhile, Suffolk is a better indicator today because it's a two-day tracking poll and half of its sample was polled post-Iowa. And Obama is clearly getting a bounce here:

  • Clinton is now ahead of Obama 36% to 29%, with Edwards at 13%. This is the smallest margin Clinton has had all week. Yesterday, it was 37% to 25% in Clinton's favor, with Edwards at 15%.
  • Among Republicans, however, there is no movement at all: Romney and McCain both gain a point, with Romney up 30% to 26%. Huckabee and Giuliani are tied at 11%.
We'll have to wait for more data to measure what effect Iowa has had, of course, and the tracking polls of the coming days. For now, we have a few interesting news coming out of New Hampshire. For one, Fred Thompson is officially saying he is skipping New Hampshire. Stuck between 1% and 4% in the polls, Thompson has collapsed in the state for a few weeks now and he is trying to protect himself from possibly disastrous results -- just as Giuliani tried to spin the 3% he got in Iowa on Thursday.

Second, Hillary Clinton has decided to not go negative at least in her advertisement. There was a lot of speculation that Clinton would start airing attack ads against Obama to make up some of the lost ground and wound the Illinois Senator who the Clinton campaign thinks is getting a pass from the press; but the Clintonites probably realized that 5 days of attacks ads is not enough to get a negative message to stick, and that they should have started earlier if they wanted to use such a strategy.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are not holding back as the McCain-Romney war is turning increasingly negative. Check out this flier Romney is mailing to NH households in which he blasts the Giuliani, McCain and Huckabee immigration plans. Another area in which Romney thinks McCain is vulnerable is taxes and McCain's opposition to Bush's first-term tax cuts. And Romney dared attack McCain on flip-flopping today (quite an audacious move given Romney's own record): "I can't quite understand the position he has -- he voted to make them permanent, but if he could he would have voted against them one more time."

McCain might find an ally in Huckabee, however, who might want to bury Romney even more to take out one of his toughest competitors. One of Huckabee's top staffers, Ed Rollins, declared today: “We’re going to see if we can’t take Romney out. We like John. Nobody likes Romney.” It is actually fairly common to hear that rival campaigns detest Romney more than anyone else, so Romney is going to find it increasingly difficult to smoothly run his campaign with every other camp looking to destroy him. It's unclear what Huckabee can do to hurt Romney in the run-up to Tuesday, but we could get our first clues tonight at the ABC debate if Huckabee runs to McCain's rescue.

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