Friday, January 23, 2004

New, New Tracking Poll Numbers From NH

I love it when I write something, post it, and then find out five minutes later that the information is out of date.

The most recent ARG tracking poll numbers out of New Hampshire now have Howard Dean down to third place with 18% behind John Kerry at 31% and Wesley Clark at 20%. John Edwards has ticked up a bit to 11%, but he's still holding rather steady at fourth.

There is good news here for Kerry and Clark. Kerry was able to parlay his Iowa momentum into results in New Hampshire. And Clark was able to weather the storm of Edwards' surprising strength coming out of Iowa. Prior to Iowa, the imperative for Kerry had been not to lose second place to Clark, and for Clark, the goal was to overtake Kerry for second.

The game has clearly changed.

Something that was said during tonight's debate really stuck with me on this point. While a number of people (I'm looking at you William Safire) had been hypothesizing an independent run for Dean if he lost the primaries, Dean put that to rest tonight. "Whoever wins up here," Dean pledged, "I will vigorously support."

Beyond the reassurance that Dean won't run as an independent should he lose the nomination is the admission by Dean that he may not win. The unacknowledged potency of the Dean campaign over the past few months has been Dean's aura of inevitability. The GOP was openly planning on running against Dean. The GOP magazines plastered Dean across their covers. An informal 'stop Dean' movement had begun within the Democratic Party. Howard Dean was, for all intents and purposes, the presumptive nominee.

As I wrote before, the game has clearly changed.

posted by Scott | 1/23/2004 | |

New Hampshire Polling - Where They Stand

I've hesitated to post anything on the New Hampshire primary polling since the Iowa polling was so awful, but now that we're only a few days out from the vote.

Well, unsurprisingly, John Kerry's uniformly in the lead. The only two tracking polls in which Howard Dean still held onto the lead ended on January 20. Even then, his lead was 2% over Kerry. So let's look at the individual polls...

American Research Group

The interesting thing about Kerry's rise in New Hampshire is that it started before the Iowa win. Of course, Kerry's rise kicked into high gear with Iowa, but he was on his way up even before that. The biggest move--over the same amount of time--was actually Howard Dean's fall. At the beginning of the month, Dean had almost 40% support in the state. In the last tracking poll before the Iowa caucuses, his support had fallen to 26%.

The other Iowa movers, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, are actually much more stable in the tracking polls than the punditry has admitted. Edwards gradually built up to 8% from a long-standing 3% as of the January 14-16 polling. Post-Iowa, he's only gained 1% to 9%. Not the dramatic surge some have talked about. Clark is now at 19%--5% off from his New Hampshire high of 24%. And Clark was bound to lose some support post-Iowa as he would no longer be the only show in town.


Sometimes, the headers of Zogby's press releases crack me up. This is one of those times. "Kerry Opens Up Lead In New Hampshire; Clark Slips..." Okay. Now let's look at the reality of the numbers. It's true that Kerry's in the lead and that Clark's support has dropped. But some perspective would be nice.

Kerry leads Dean by 3%. Clark's support has fallen 1%. The same is true of Dean. His support has fallen 1%. And the reverse is true of Edwards' support. Post-Iowa, he gained 1%.

Kerry's jump from 23% to 27% upon the Iowa win was impressive. In a few short weeks, he managed to go from third place to first. But as Dean showed, being the front runner a week out is not necessarily the ideal spot to be in.

Boston Herald

Now here's a poll with some meaty numbers. Also, it's a two day sample, which separates it from some of the others. Kerry has a decisive lead here, 31% to 21% for Dean. Clark is firmly in third place here, as is true of all of the polls, with 16%. Edwards also got a bump from Iowa, raising his status from 5% to 11%

The other big movement in this Herald poll is Dean's favorability. In the course of one week, largely due to the post-caucus speech to his supporters in Iowa, he lost 10% favorability. A full 34% of likely NH primary voters now hold a negative opinion of Dean. Perhaps even more tellingly, prior to the Iowa loss, almost 75% of NH voters believed Dean would be the winner of the state's primary. That number is now down to 30%. While I don't think these things are based entirely on which candidate you'd rather have over for dinner, I do think that the drop in Dean's favorables is a very bad thing.

The Zogby release mentions "today's sample alone," which I'd personally love to see. The other night on MSNBC's Hardball, former pollster Pat Caddell made this same point. The three-day samples the tracking polls are based on are not telling us the whole story. Who's got the momentum? Who was hurt by which statement? Who's stealing supporters from whom? Those are the questions I'd like answered and I don't think the three-day tracking polls are answering.

Granite State Endorsements

There are a few more indicators besides polls that we can look at. All of a sudden, like Dean in Iowa, Kerry is getting a lot of endorsements. Both The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald today endorsed Kerry. On Sunday (before the Iowa win), he was endorsed by The Concord Monitor and The Nashua Telegraph, papers actually in New Hampshire. Will these endorsements help? Well, it's notable that three out of the four are rubber stamp approvals of Kerry's resume. Only the Telegraph gets into actual issues and policies that they feel Kerry is better suited to handle than his rivals.

Again, one must wonder about the comparison with Dean in Iowa. Dean was getting all of the right endorsements and was playing his hand very defensively. But when he abandoned the fiery tone that got him to the top and was forced to defend from the front-runner's position, he lost his appeal. The same could prove true for Kerry as well.

posted by Scott | 1/23/2004 | |

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Iowa Wrap-Up: What Others Are Saying

There have been so many interesting pieces written today on what went down in Iowa yesterday and what it all means that I thought I'd post some links and summaries here. Call it suggested reading if you will. Here are some of my favorites:

The Democratic Leadership Council Salivates Over Dean's Demise

Howard Dean's loss in Iowa, the DLC surmises is really a win from someone who isn't even in the race... Bill Clinton. "The Dean campaign," the argument goes, "has done everything it can to run away from Clintonism." I don't really buy that, but whatever. John Kerry and John Edwards, on the other hand "followed the Clinton playbook" in projecting an image of being tough on terror, pointing out the lesser-known of Bush's flaws, and "putting forth a positive vision of what a Democratic presidency will do for America that George W. Bush won't."

Here's where the DLC analysis totally loses me. "[T]he Iowa results represent a vindication for the Blair Democrats who supported the war in Iraq." According to polling done for MSNBC, a whopping 75% of caucus-goers did not support the Iraq war. Kerry and Edwards succeeded because only 14% saw Iraq as the most important issue. And even then, Kerry and Edwards are hardly Blair Democrats. Hell, Gephardt was a Blair Democrat, unapologetically supporting the war on Iraq. Kerry and Edwards have both distanced themselves from their support of the Iraq war, if to different degrees.

Either way, the DLC at least got it right with their title: "A Vote for Hope Over Anger."

Slate's Suellentrop: 'Very Bad Night' For Dean

The night before the caucuses, Dean spoke to supporters in Iowa, telling them to "see if this works" and to "prove it." What is 'this' and 'it'? Dean's new style of campaigning, of course: Internet support, a fiery appeal to youth and outsiders, the attacks at the Washington party establishment. By Dean's own standard, it apparently doesn't work.

I think that's a bit simple, but it is damning that Dean has to choke on his own words. Dean's failings in Iowa, by the words of one of his own supporters who Suellentrop quotes, have more to do with Dean's negativity and ineffective advertising. Dean also never broadened his scope in campaigning. It was always, he writes, "bromides about the special interests/corporations/Washington insiders."

So I don't think Dean's loss can be blamed on its reliance on youthful energy and technology. It's much more simple--and old fashioned--than that. Dean's loss can be blamed on a narrow focus and a defensive candidate.

Saletan's Take: What Iowa Means For New Hampshire

Also at Slate, William Saletan writes about what the Iowa results mean for New Hampshire. But first, what happened in Iowa? Saletan brilliantly and simply puts it, "While you're beating up the guy on your left, the guy on your right is coasting to victory."

So now Iowa's impact on New Hampshire. With Gephardt out of the race, Saletan sees big potential for Edwards. Edwards, second only to Gephardt, takes "the next-hardest line... against lax trade agreements." Edwards and Clark are both from the South/Midwest, which was Gephardt's backyard, but Clark is an avowed free trade candidate, which may make many of Gephardt's backers uneasy.

Saletan also writes about something that I touched on before the caucuses. A strong Kerry and strong Edwards are very bad for Wesley Clark in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The Clark campaign has got to be hoping for a free-for-all campaign that takes the focus off of the 'Dean v. Clark' story that has been brewing in the punditry. Because Kerry and Edwards both have momentum going into the coming primaries--exactly where Clark needs it not to be.

Gandelman: Dean Wasn't Teflon... He Was Velcro

Two really solid observations from Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice weblog. Dean "was proclaimed the front runner and began believing his own press." Once he was wearing the first place crown, he became the target of relentless attacks from his rivals and background digging by the media. This took much more of a toll than any of us thought it would.

Joe also writes that Team W benefits from "a bloody-knuckle brawl" among the Democrats in the opening months of the primary season. By contrast, Bush will coast into the GOP convention in September with no opposition in his own party. However, Rove & Co. should not get too excited. Of all of the issues the Democrats will be focused on this year--health care, foreign policy, tax policy, education, fiscal policy--one of the biggest issues is going to be George W. Bush and his record. The Democrats may wind up with some bloody knuckles, but Bush is not going to escape unscathed.

Kos Brings Back The Cattle-Call!!!

It's the little things that excite me, people. Markos has decided (as have many of us) that the race for the nomination is no longer just limited to Dean and Clark. Dean's " 'aura of inevitability' has been shattered" and "he's lost his message." Painful, but accurate. Kos gives Dean "a down arrow, way down."

Kos gives Kerry a lot of credit for "reversing a near-catastrophic fall," but warns against getting to excited. Kerry, after all, is self-financing his campaign and forgoing matching funds. He asks if Kerry hasn't "blown his kitty" to win Iowa. It's a real possibility.

There's more consensus here on what Clark must be thinking post-Iowa. Saletan and Kos (and me) agree that Clark has a lot to be worried about with the dual upswing of Edwards and Kerry. Clark now has more worries in some of the February 3 primary states where he's been polling well. He was supposed to come out of Iowa with less.

And the most brave call here is the death knell for Joe Lieberman. He skipped Iowa, he's not on the radar in New Hampshire, and he's weak almost everywhere else. But where Kos calls him the next to drop out, I think the other Democrats have to worry about an desperate Lieberman going hardcore into a scorched earth campaign.

posted by Scott | 1/20/2004 | |

Gephardt Withdrawing From Race, Returning To St. Louis For Announcement

Dick Gephardt is returning to St. Louis tomorrow to withdraw from the race for the Democratic nomination. His post-caucus speech to his supporters was from the heart and a nice bit of punctuation to end his campaign.

I've always admired Gephardt's commitment to labor and his personalization of policy throughout his campaign will really benefit the Democrats going into 2004 by humanizing progressive ideas for the masses.

Now, it may be a bit crass to perform a political autopsy before Dick's body even reaches Lambert International, but this is DemWatch and that's what I do. So please forgive me... Where do Gephardt's people go from here? Their candidate unapologetically supported the Iraq war. Just like Lieberman. Their candidate is a staunch advocate of fair trade and organized labor. Just like Kucinich. Their candidate vowed to repeal all of Bush's tax cuts. Just like Dean.

The problem with all of that is that every one of those candidates has either no shot at the nomination or is on the decline. These people are going to be looking for winners. I tend to think that Gephardt's supporters will now file into the ranks of the Kerry, Edwards, and Clark campaigns at a pretty even ratio for different reasons. I do not expect an endorsement from Gephardt.

I also think that, at least in New Hampshire, Dean's miserable Iowa performance and insanely weird concession speech are really going to drive his numbers down. A number of Dean defectors are likely to do the same thing as the Gephardt crowd, filtering into the new top three campaigns. Can Dean hold on to his New Hampshire lead? It's hard to say, but it's not looking good.

posted by Scott | 1/20/2004 | |

Iowa Results: 1. Kerry, 2. Edwards, 3. Dean, 4. Gephardt

Boy was I wrong!!!

Earlier this afternoon, I wrote that I didn't take much stock in the predictions of the Iowa Poll. Well, it predicted the order of the outcome perfectly, if not the actual numbers. But still, I don't necessarily think the Iowa Poll had some magical crystal ball. They just got really lucky.

But enough excuses from me.

What happened? What does it mean?

John Kerry and John Edwards really pulled off some major upsets tonight, despite the fact that the polls indicated strong finishes for both. Just a week ago, Zogby's tracking poll had Kerry and Edwards 10% and 11% respectively behind Dean, and Gephardt barely trailing Dean by 2%. The two Johns caught ahold of some magic that launched them to the front of the pack.

What was this magic?

There are a few factors here. Everyone loves an underdog (or two of them). Everyone hates attack ads. Gephardt and Dean aired them and then pulled them. Apparently, the damage had already been done. Some endorsements matter, some don't. Tom Harkin, Al Gore, and Bill Bradley couldn't put it together for Howard Dean. But the opinions of the Des Moines Register and Iowa's first lady Christie Vilsack really seemed to make a difference for Edwards and Kerry, respectively. One of the most surprising factors is that the x-factor of union support that was supposed to benefit Gephardt and Dean never came to pass.

John Edwards, even though his 32% of the delegates is second to Kerry's 38%, was the real winner in Iowa. It took people a long time to warm up to Edwards, but when they fell for him, they fell hard. His post-caucus speech, which I hesitate to call a concession, was everything a victory speech should be. It was triumphant, gracious, and painted a gorgeous, concise portrait of what the Edwards campaign is all about. He knew America was watching and he took full advantage of the situation.

As for Kerry, I think that in addition to the factors listed above, the much talked about "Dated Dean, Married Kerry" flyers had more truth to them than anyone realized. It fell apart for Dean tonight and all of the entrance and exit polling tells us that many of the people who were supposed to go for Dean went for Kerry instead. The anti-war crowd, youth, internet users... you name it. It's as if they took one last look at Dean and ultimately decided that the punditry was right--Dean wasn't viable.

posted by Scott | 1/20/2004 | |

Monday, January 19, 2004

Live Iowa Caucus Results

Keep up with the latest results in the Iowa caucuses at the Iowa Democratic Party's Caucus 2004 website. It's a pretty cool interface, but it's gone done a few times today. Let's hope it stays up from now on.

posted by Scott | 1/19/2004 | |

Edwards, Kucinich Strike A Deal To Sway Caucus Outcome

Now this is interesting.

The Iowa caucuses are the scene of a bit of palace intrigue this year. Candidates Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards have agreed on a deal to help each other out if one of the two candidates does not meet the 15% viability threshold. In other words, in the first round of the caucuses, if either Edwards or Kucinich does not garner the 15% of support from caucus-goers needed for that candidate to be considered viable, the candidates are urging their supporters to come together and support whichever candidate is viable in the next round.

I know it sounds a little confusing, but it's a simple equation. Basically, Dennis Kucinich is not expected to have 15% support in very many precincts in Iowa. Rather than his supporters scattering to the wind and backing various other candidates, Kucinich has asked that they back Edwards. And vice versa, of course, but I'm being realistic here.

This is a major coup for the Edwards campaign, giving Kucinich supporters--not just in Iowa, but around the country--a hint of who Kucinich might endorse if and when (okay, when) their preferred candidate drops out of the race. Surprisingly, it's not the anti-war candidate Dean or the pro-labor candidate Gephardt, but Kucinich's fellow populist Edwards. As George McGovern's endorsement of Wesley Clark gives Clark increased credibility with progressives and liberals who might be wary of Clark's military record, the deal between Edwards and Kucinich helps Edwards to shirk the fact that he supported the Iraq war. And, quite frankly, the Edwards/Kucinich deal also gives Kucinich some real credibility. It says to many Democrats that if a centrist like Edwards can work with this guy, then so can we.

Expect this deal to make a real impact tonight.

posted by Scott | 1/19/2004 | |

On Iowa's Day, A Look At New Hampshire
Or: What Kind Of Magic Juice Is Kerry Drinking, Anyway?

Everyone else is going to be 'covering' the Iowa caucuses tonight even though there's really nothing to be covered until the results are in, so here I come with some news from New Hampshire.

Once upon a time, the conventional wisdom was that John Kerry had the Democratic nomination wrapped up. Howard Dean was little more an increasingly annoying asterisk to the Kerry campaign. And then Kerry faltered and Dean surged. As Dean mainstreamed, in walked General Wesley Clark to the race. Dean suddenly had to defend his anti-Iraq war outsider status from a man with serious foreign policy bonafides. But Clark quickly decided to skip Iowa, leaving that state to Dean and '88 Iowa winner Dick Gephardt. Clark would focus on New Hampshire, where he sought to knock Kerry out of second, and South Carolina, where he sought to knock John Edwards out of first. Clark not only overtook Kerry for second in NH, but started challenging Dean for first. Just as shockingly, as Dean and Gephardt struggled to hold on to their shifting leads in Iowa, Kerry and Edwards made a last minute scramble to the top of the heap. At the same time, back in Wesley Clark's New Hampshire, John Kerry's forward momentum carried over from Iowa and he may be poised to retake his second place spot.

In the past few weeks and months, much has changed--and much continues to change.

Today's caucuses in Iowa will do more than assign the first slate of delegates to the Democratic candidates. The Iowa results are going to reverberate in primary states for weeks to come. Here's how I see the impact of the potential results.

Possibility One: Kerry, Dean, Edwards, and Gephardt

This scenario, in addition to being the Clark campaign's worst nightmare, is what the latest Zobgy poll is predicting. A Kerry win would paint him as 2004's 'comeback kid' and would certainly launch him further up the charts in New Hampshire. If Dean comes in second in Iowa, his campaign will revert back to the early 'anointed one' language when referring to Kerry and they will highlight that Dean beat Gephardt in a state where the Congressman was always considered a front runner. For John Edwards, anything in the top four is fantastic, and he seems to have that pretty well locked up. A fourth place finish for Gephardt should spell the end of his campaign. However, the Missouri Democratic primary, which Gephardt should win handily, is held on February 3. That could keep him from dropping out and endorsing one of his rivals.

Possibility Two: Dean, Edwards, Kerry, and Gephardt

This is what Survey USA's final Iowa tracking poll said was the order among "certain" Iowa caucus goers. This is undoubtedly what the Dean campaign is hoping for. It's a decisive win over 'Washington insiders' Gephardt and Kerry. This would cut Kerry's momentum going into New Hampshire, probably ensuring second place in NH for Clark. Therefore, it would probably start to split the anti-Dean forces into two camps: those for John Edwards and those for Wesley Clark. That way, Clark and Edwards would likely split the centrist difference throughout much of the remainder of the primary season, handing Dean a number of important wins leading up to the convention.

Possibility Three: Edwards, Kerry, Dean, and Gephardt

Or perhaps I should call this 'possibility two and a half' since this is the outcome among "certain" and "probable" Iowa caucus goers according to the same Survey USA poll. If this is the result, the field will be too hard to read until New Hampshire. Edwards is probably running too far behind in New Hampshire to mount a comeback... or maybe not. Kerry's second place finish should give him enough forward momentum to overtake Wes Clark in New Hampshire for second, but with a third place Dean finish in Iowa, do Dean's NH supporters jump to the other anti-war Washington outsider Clark? Who knows! The only certain here is that Gephardt's done.

Possibility Four: Kerry, Edwards, Dean, and Gephardt

These are the results of the most recent Iowa Poll, conducted between the 13th and 16th of January. This one would offer a clearer picture of what to expect in New Hampshire and beyond. Kerry's forward momentum and Dean's downward momentum would make New Hampshire a pretty tight race between Kerry and Clark. Edwards would do well to focus his efforts on the February 3 states--especially South Carolina--and not waste too much time campaigning in New Hampshire. This way, he would essentially make the South Carolina race an Edwards/Clark affair, possibly leaving Kerry and Clark to split--as in possibility two--the pro-military difference elsewhere.

Possibility Five: Dean, Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards

This is the finding of the final pre-caucus Research 2000 poll. However, as with many of these polls, the real results were too close to call, with none of the candidates earning a lead to overcome the margin of error. This is the second best result for the Dean campaign, as Edwards' surge would not wind up living up to its expectation. However, Kerry's second place finish would allow him to claim a comeback and gain some momentum going into New Hampshire; enough, quite possibly, to overtake Wesley Clark for second place. Clark, with Edwards largely out of the way, would have to come on strong in the southern February 3 states in order to overcome a poor showing in New Hampshire.

So what's the most likely possibility?

To be completely honest, I'm not comfortable with any of these poll results. The Iowa Poll, for example, only polls registered voters. Iowa election law dictates that voters can register on the day of the caucuses, however, rendering their reading almost useless, especially when one considers Dean's appeal to first-time voters.

All of the results seem to underestimate Gephardt's organizational strength with his union loyalists in Iowa. The same can also be said of Dean, though his organization strength relies a bit less on the unions.

And none of the poll results take into account the lobbying that goes on at each individual caucus. For example, supporters of Clark, Lieberman and Kucinich will probably throw their support to other candidates since their first choice isn't likely to win. Both Lieberman's people and Clark's people, for example, will be focused on hurting Dean. But they don't want to hurt Dean so badly that a strong anti-Dean emerges in Iowa. So look for them to back Gephardt, whose national strategy and fundraising is lacking and, therefore, not much of a threat. With a race this tight, even the small, single digit support for Clark and Lieberman could shift the balance.

posted by Scott | 1/19/2004 | |

If Dean Is McGovern, Why Is McGovern For Clark?

The simple answer is that the premise is false. Howard Dean is not George McGovern--"Dean as McGovern" is a lazy meme that the Lieberman campaign cooked up to paint Howard Dean as unelectable. So forget that part. I just gave this posting that title because I like to be cute with my titles. But still the question is out there... Why is McGovern endorsing Wesley Clark?

The biggest head scratcher of McGovern's endorsement stems from the fact that Clark admits that, before Bill Clinton, he voted for Republicans... like Richard Nixon... who was George McGovern's opponent in 1972. This is a fact McGovern acknowledged in his endorsement of Clark with a bit of humor. "Let's call it youthful indiscretion. The good news is that this time we both agree."

In all seriousness, this endorsement is both good and bad thing for both Dean and Clark. For Dean, it helps him to buck the McGovern comparisons. But it also takes away his ability to keep calling Clark a Republican. Likewise, for Clark, the McGovern endorsement puts to bed any questions about his credentials as a liberal Democrat. When George McGovern says you're a progressive, then you are a progressive. But the flipside of that coin is that other candidates may start pointing to Clark as the next unelectable McGovern.

If Dean does not win Iowa, some of Dean's NH supporters may start considering jumping ship. The endorsements of such notable liberals as Michael Moore and George McGovern could sway this crowd into Clark's camp. However, if John Kerry performs well in Iowa, he will use Clark's more liberal backers start training the "unelectable" fire that's proven so harmful to Dean on Clark and start moving up to the head of the pack. Kerry's already showing some forward momentum in NH based on his Iowa numbers, so it's a real possibility.

The night before the Iowa caucus, the Democratic nomination is far from decided.

posted by Scott | 1/19/2004 | |
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