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A new poll from CNN, USA Today, and Gallup shows that while Howard Dean's plurality in the Democratic race is holding steady, the campaign of former Gen. Wesley Clark has emerged as the closest challenger, now polling within 4 points of Dean:
He has the support of 24 percent of registered Democrats who responded. In December, Dean had 27 percent. The difference, however, is within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.
Clark had the support of only 12 percent of registered Democrats in December and is now within 5 percentage points of Dean, with 20 percent. "Clark is the only Democratic candidate to show momentum in the past month," Schneider said. "The attacks on Dean from his fellow Democrats could be taking a toll on the front-runner."
The numbers seem to show that Dean's support isn't wavering as much as Clark has drawn support from other Democratic candidates. Clark's status as the Clintonista's man in the race as well as his perceived unique ability to carry foreign-policy and national-security gravitas into the general election will probably continue to make him the natural magnet for voters who abandon other Democratic candidates as their campaigns become more hopeless. If Dean is to win the nomination, he has to hope that either he can expand his base or that all nine of his competitors stay in the race until the end.
It will probably make little difference in the end, as Bush's numbers continue to rise, regardless:
In a poll in December, only half the respondents approved of the way Bush was handling Iraq. In the new poll, 61 percent of respondents said they approved. For world affairs, Bush's rating improved from 53 percent to 58 percent. He also gained ground on the economy, with 54 percent saying they approved of his job on the issues, opposed to 48 percent a month ago. Overall, the poll showed Bush with a 60 percent approval rating [emph. mine].
No recent President has entered a re-election year with a 60 percent approval rating, along with a not-coincidentally expanding economy. Bush I had 42 percent and a flagging economy but still had to have Perot in the race to lose to a plurality of votes for Bill Clinton. Clinton had 42% in 1996 and beat Bob Dole with another plurality. While these numbers may change as a polarized electorate prepares for November, they are just as likely to improve as unemployment continues to drop and the economy expands.
Dean, Clark, Gephardt ... anyone coming up against a sitting President with a 60% approval rating and an expanding economy won't have much of a shot in November.Sphere It View blog reactions
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