The one agency with the best record in polling Iowans has published its final survey two days before the Iowa caucuses, and the results show little difference from its last. Mike Huckabee continues to outpoll Mitt Romney among Republicans, and Barack Obama has increased his lead over Hillary Clinton among Democrats. The more interesting results follow afterwards:
Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, up from 28 percent in the Register’s last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent. …
The size of Huckabee’s lead is virtually unchanged from the last Iowa Poll taken in late November, despite Romney’s hard-charging effort to regain the top spot that he held earlier in the year.
The new poll, taken over four days ending on Sunday, shows a resurgent Arizona Sen. John McCain grabbing third place in the Republican race for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. McCain tallies support from 13 percent in the poll — a 6-point improvement since late November.
One narrative gets exposed as a fantasy, while another gets some validation. John Edwards has tried to cast his candidacy in Iowa as surging, gaining momentum at the expense of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Instead, while still significant, it remains at the same levels as the last DMR poll. The momentum belongs to Obama, and Hillary and Edwards has not dented his upward rise in the state.
Edwards has to win in Iowa in order to have a prayer anywhere else. His unvarnished brand of populism has little hope of gaining traction even in his home state of North Carolina, and certainly not in New Hampshire, Florida, or any of the rest of the early states. If he can’t finish any better than third in Iowa with his kind of rhetoric, he’s finished.
On the other hand, John McCain seems to have gained some real upward trajectory in Iowa, a state not inclined towards his brand of conservatism. He almost doubled his support from November despite not spending a great deal of time in Iowa, and a third-place finish in the caucus would provide him a big push before the critical New Hampshire primaries. If Romney loses Iowa and McCain wins New Hampshire, Romney has a much tougher — but hardly impossible — task to win the nomination. Rudy Giuliani will be hoping for just such an outcome.
Fred Thompson, meanwhile, has also improved in Iowa, although perhaps not enough to stay viable. He needs a third-place finish to have any chance of gaining enough momentum (and Fred says he needs a second-place finish, which would take a miracle). Right now, he’s tied with Ron Paul at 9%. Using that as a guide, Paul has a legitimate complaint about being left out of the next debate in New Hampshire.
The Des Moines Register has a pretty good track record of predicting caucus behavior, and this looks like both parties are in for a shakeup. (via Memeorandum)