With New Hampshire ready to fall into his lap, Barack Obama may have a better shot at the national title than anyone would have believed. According to the latest Gallup polling, he has tied Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination at 33%, erasing an 18-point gap in three weeks. Mike Huckabee leads a tight Republican race, reversing an 11-point gap:
On the Democratic side, Iowa winner Obama has moved into a tie with Clinton. Both now have 33% of the vote. This represents a 6-point gain since December 2007 for Obama and a 12-point loss for Clinton. John Edwards has gained 5 points since December, moving from 15% to 20% support among Democrats. Edwards is now closer to the front-runner among Democrats than he has been at any point since Gallup began tracking the Democratic race more than a year ago. This is also the first time since June that Clinton has not held a statistically significant lead over the rest of her competitors. She had led by 27 points as recently as mid-November. …
Huckabee has jumped from 16% of the vote in December 2007 to 25% as of this polling. Coupled with the loss of support for former front-runner Rudy Giuliani, Huckabee is now the leader among Republicans nationally, with a 5-point lead over Giuliani and 6-point lead over John McCain (who has gained 5 points since December). Mitt Romney, after failing to win in Iowa, is now in fifth place nationally with just 9% of the vote, which is his lowest percentage since early October.
Call it the Iowa effect. The win in the first contest of the primary season has boosted the perceived ability of both Huckabee and Obama to contend for the nomination. Both had faced serious questions about their campaigning strength and tenacity, but both came out of almost nowhere to win big in Iowa.
The transformation on the Democratic side has been nothing short of amazing. In November, Hillary had practically lapped the field. That Gallup poll had been taken almost two weeks after her disastrous showing in the November 2nd debate, where Chris Dodd nailed her for her position on the Eliot Spitzer plan to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, and she reversed herself on television, and then twice more in the days afterward. People pointed to the Gallup poll to show that she had suffered no damage, but clearly that is not the case any longer.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the time may have arrived for someone to hit the panic button:
With Barack Obama strongly favored — even within Hillary Clinton’s camp — to win a second straight victory in today’s New Hampshire Democratic primary, both rivals are looking to the next battle grounds. But his momentum threatens to swamp her in the next two states as well and shows signs of fracturing her support in the party establishment.
Already some Clinton associates have begun lobbying for her early exit if she loses the primary by a big margin, as polls suggest she could. Several Senate colleagues who have sat on the fence are now in talks with Obama advisers about endorsing the freshman Illinois senator over his more experienced colleague.
And as those endorsements fall by the wayside, so will the superdelegates, the real Hillary firewall. If she can’t hold the Senators and Congressmen who comprise that Establishment Deus ex machina, then she has become very vulnerable indeed.
For Republicans, the picture looks more murky. Giuliani’s slip could be expected, given his low profile during the first two contests, but still calls into question his overall strategy. John McCain’s rise to almost a tie for second place will give him hope that a win today in New Hampshire could very well create momentum across the nation for a campaign that looked dead in June. It turns out Team McCain was only mostly dead. If they were really dead … well, you get the picture. Thompson’s third-place finish didn’t help him nationally.
Mitt Romney has problems in this polling. He has slipped back into single digits for the first time since October, reminding everyone why he needed the early-state strategy in the first place. He needed to gain the early traction to overcome soft national polling as he headed into Super Tuesday. With Giuliani getting a little weaker than expected, some thought that Romney’s tactical position had changed, but clearly it has not. He needs a couple of big wins before February 5th, or he will not have enough momentum to vault out of the pack. (via Memeorandum)