1.01.2008

Final DMR poll smashes all conventional wisdom and has Obama gaining

The much-anticipated Des Moines Register poll, talked-up as the most reliable survey of the Iowa caucuses, was released last night after a week of speculation and rumors. In 2004, the DMR poll had Kerry, Edwards, Dean and Gephardt in the correct order -- a mighty accomplishment given the fluidity of that race. And with the new survey sure to get a lot of press, it smashes the conventional wisdom that was developing in all polls and observations from the trail during the past week. More precisely, the three storylines that are undermined here are (1) the Edwards surge (2) Obama's struggles and (3) Huckabee's sinking.

  • In the GOP poll, Mike Huckabee leads Mitt Romney 32% to 26%. McCain confirms his rise as he comes in at 13%, ahead of Fred Thompson. Ron Paul and Fred Thompson are tied at 9%... and Giuliani is very far behind at 5%!

  • In the Democratic race, Obama increases his lead in the last DMR poll and is now ahead 32% to 25% for Clinton and 24% for Edwards. Richardson is very far behind at 6%. And in what is an even more encouraging news for Obama, he does better and Clinton does worse in every day of polling.
In a sign of just how much the DMR poll has the potential to change the narrative, the Edwards campaign literally immediately came out swinging with a release blasting the poll's accuracy. And I have to admit that this poll truly contains some very uncommon turnout projections in the Democratic race:

  • Independents: 50% of respondents are registered Democrats, and 40% are independents. In 2004, 80% of caucus-goers were registered Democrats. One has to be a registered Democrat to participate in the caucus, but anyone can register at the caucus site on Thursday night -- so that is not a problem (though it still means that people have to be ready to do that step).
  • Among the 50% of Democrats in the sample, Clinton leads 33% to 27% for Obama and 25% for Edwards. Among the 40% of independents, Obama is up with 39% with 25% for Edwards and 15% for Clinton!

  • First-time caucus-goers: 60% of respondents would be first-time caucus goers. In 2004, that proportion was only 20%. If the DMR's projection is true, it would be a huge gigantic increase of turnout and while the ground games are better than ever this year, are they really that much better? And first-time caucus goers massively benefit Obama, who draws 72% of his support from them.
This is not to say that it is impossible that this huge a group of Iowans go to caucus for the first time, nor that many of them are independents that like Obama so much that they are ready to go and change their registration on January 3rd. But if Obama inspires enough to move such huge crowds, he certainly deserves to win -- and the GOP should start trembling for November.

The issue, of course, is that no other poll has detected this huge a boost among independents for Obama. And much of the conventional wisdom off the ground was that the poll numbers were ticking up for both Hillary and Edwards. What, then, has led the Des Moines Register to assume that there could be this significant an influx of independent novices in the caucuses? Is it just an outlier? Given the reputation of the pollsters, they might be on to something -- but we will have to wait and see Thursday night.

Oh, and happy new year!

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