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January 3, 2008

The Final Polling In Iowa: Clinton Fades

The final polling before the Iowa caucuses has come from a joint Reuters/Zogby/C-SPAN survey, and the news for Hillary looks bad. She now comes in third behind the inexperienced duo of Barack Obama and John Edwards. This continues a slow fade for Hillary that had its start in a botched November debate answer:

Democrat Barack Obama surged to a four-point lead over John Edwards in Iowa, with Hillary Clinton fading to third just hours before the first presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Thursday.

Obama and Edwards gained ground overnight in the tracking poll, and Clinton fell four points to third place -- a finish that, if it held, would deal a dramatic setback to the one-time Democratic front-runner.

Obama was at 31 percent among likely Democratic caucus-goers, Edwards at 27 percent and Clinton 24 percent. No other Democrat was in double digits.

In the Republican race, Mike Huckabee expanded his lead to six points, 31 to 25 percent, over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the one-time leader in Iowa who has attacked Huckabee for his record as Arkansas governor.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is in third place in the Republican race at 11 percent and Arizona Sen. John McCain slipped two points to 10 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul also registered 10 percent.

The poll uses a good sampling size; over 900 likely caucus-goers for each party, surveyed by normal telephone questioning rather than on-line surveys. The margin of error does not account for the gap between Hillary and Obama any longer, and now the gap between Edwards and Hillary almost exceeds it as well. The fade looks real, and in the first test among the Democratic frontrunners, she could lose her greatest asset -- her air of inevitability.

Only eight weeks ago, Hillary appeared untouchable. She had just finished pushing her money totals past Obama in an impressive third quarter of fundraising, and the Clinton political machine had proven itself highly competent in ground-game organization. Unfortunately, Hillary proved that all of the organization in the world won't help a bad candidate. She fumbled twice within two minutes on the Spitzer plan to issue drivers licenses in New York to illegal immigrants, and then fumbled it twice in the days following the debate. Clearly rattled, the campaign then went on a bizarre attack on Obama that included criticizing him for his kindergarten essays.

Hillary proved unable to pull herself out of the corkscrew spiral. She cackled during a question directed at Obama in the last Iowa debate in a scene that only needed flying monkeys to complete her transformation. This week, she attempted to sell a story about flying into a sniper zone, but forgot to mention that she brought Sheryl Crow, Sinbad, and her own 15-year-old daughter along for the trip, making her recollection look like a serious prevarication.

It's a wonder she's only seven points behind. She should be seventeen points behind in Iowa.

On the Republican side, the race looks rather steady. Huckabee still leads Romney by six, and Fred Thompson has a shot at a third-place finish after some heavy-duty retail politicking in the last three weeks. McCain may still win that spot even without seriously campaigning there, and Ron Paul looks poised to surprise as well.

Here are my predictions about tonight's results. For the Democrats, I think this poll has it correct, and it finishes Obama-Edwards-Clinton. The Republicans wind up with Huckabee beating Romney by three points, and John McCain finishes third, followed by Thompson and then Paul.

I will be blogging tonight -- so we'll soon see how close I come.


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» Eye-Oh-Uh from RealClearPolitics - Blog Coverage
Happy Iowa Caucus Day! We have a long, and no doubt wild day ahead of us. We'll be live-blogging on the latest news and reactions all day long, so remember to check in throughout the day for all of the... [Read More]

» Prediction Fever from Comments from Left Field
According to the MSNBC countdown timer there’s just over an hour left until the caucuses begin.  Now, I’ve already made my predictions for tonight which you can go and review here, but let’s go and take a look around the horn to see ... [Read More]

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