Iowa Update: Fourth poll of the day, and the tone of the Huckabee campaign

Strategic Vision has been faithfully releasing a poll of the Iowa caucuses every week and here is their latest delivery:

  • In the Democratic race, Barack Obama is ahead with 32% with John Edwards at 29% and Hillary Clinton at 27%. Last week, Strategic Vision had Obama at 30%, Clinton at 29% and Edwards at 28%. And that was a decline for Obama, who was up 3% the week before and had an 8 point lead the prior week.
  • Note, however, that this is the only one of the day's four polls that has Obama ahead. As we saw with yesterday's DMR poll, there is a very clear factor explaining the variations: Every pollster is using a different turnout model, and it appears impossible today to predict who will turn out on Thursday night; and what will be the proportion of first-time caucus goers?

  • Among Republicans, Mitt Romney is rising and has erased much of Huckabee's surge: He is ahead today by a tiny 30% to 28%. Last week, Huckabee was up 29% to 27%, and two weeks ago it was 31% to 25%. The trendline in Romney's favor is clear, and confirms other Iowa polls released today
  • But it is the numbers behind that are truly stunning: John McCain now reaches 16%, with Fred Thompson at 13%. That is a shocking number for McCain, a candidate who has barely campaigned in Iowa for the past few months (though it's not like the other lower-tier candidates but Thompson have). Last week, McCain got 13% and 8% two weeks ago. Here too, this trend is confirmed by all other polls.
Interestingly, GOP Senator Grassley of Iowa retracted his earlier prediction that Romney would win the caucuses, saying that it had become too close to call. What is strange is that Grassley issued that bold prediction at the height of Huckabee's surge when the former Arkansas Governor looked unstoppable. And now that Romney is looking to have a chance to pull off a victory again, Grassley suddenly senses the depth of movement in Huckabee's favor?!

More seriously, the big story since yesterday's now infamous Huckabee press conference is the tone of his campaign. He pledged to stay positive in the last 3 days of the campaign -- and he made a big show out of it, assembling reporters and accusing them of cynicism. So the press cannot be blamed for scrutinizing Huckabee very closely to see if he is just showing off or if he is serious. And that gets us a deluge of stories about Huckabee's subtle digs at Romney (today on CNN) or this report of how Huckabee surrogate Chuck Norris (one of the first big Huckabee endorsers) blasted Romney today in Huckabee's presence without the candidate intervening.

As has been already noted, the local media looks to be giving Huckabee somewhat of a pass, but the national press is having a field day with Huckabee's hypocritically positive tone since his decision to air that attack ad during the press conference. Some of that coverage is bound to trickle down to caucus-goers (who, after all, must be committed politicos to go and caucus for hours). And many of the questions aimed at Huckabee are now reflecting this skepticism, not a good thing to have going for you 48 hours before an election.

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