Some very interesting polls were released today (or at least some valuable data points were sent ahead of a release date of tomorrow) all of which continue to paint a picture of momentum and volatility that reflects just how bumpy of a ride this primary contest is going to be.

According to a pair of Zogby polls released today, Hillary Clinton has both reason to relax and to sweat some more as they place Hillary back atop a statistical dead heat in Iowa, but her crown continues to fall down in New Hampshire.  In truth, I think there is more reason to flop than not to flop: the pro Obama polls were all a statistical tie meaning that being at the top of the tie is not that big of a boost.  On the other hand, this Zogby poll only further validates what other polls have been saying that the front runner is losing her grip on the Granite state.

As things stand now, she can survive a loss in Iowa, it would be a bit more of a struggle, but I she could survive a loss in New Hampshire, but I think losing both would put the Clinton campaign in dire trouble.  If NH keeps trending the wrong way for Hillary, drastic measures will be called for.

Nor does the news about Iowa come untainted.  While Zogby has Clinton leading a statistical tie, Strategic Visions is going to release a poll tomorrow that not only has Obama leading the pack there, but doing so outside of the margin of error.

Bringing thing back to the national level, Barack Obama has moved within ten points of Hillary Clinton as the front runner has dropped to one of her lowest national numbers of the campaign.

When we put it all together, we have to remember the character of the Democratic race.  Particularly compared to the Republican race which has been incredibly volatile, the Democratic race has been mired in molasses for much of the time.  Remaining unchanged has been first second and third (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), Richardson the only candidate experiencing a short lived threat to break into the top tier.

But in recent weeks, the Democratic race has begun to speed up a bit.  Obama and Edwards both catching Hillary in Iowa and Hillary falling in New Hampshire putting her in her opponents grasp.  It’s important to tie these trends to actual events of the campaign, specifically the initial Philadelphia debate which opened a wide gap in the veneer of Clinton’s vulnerability.

Since then, she has not recovered particularly well; equivocating on the illegal immigration issue that acted as a catalyst, allowing herself to be perceived as playing the gender card, announcing she was not only going to go on offense against the Obama campaign, but even admitting she was going after his character, and then there was the Kindergarten flap that had much of the political world laughing at the Clinton campaign and not with them as Mark Penn tried to spin.

It’s too early to say that the Clinton campaign is imploding, but it’s not too early to assert that she got rocked, isn’t recovering as well as many Democrats expected she would, and is suffering at the polls from it.

Meanwhile, it’s important to note the Obama’s good fortunes are rather shaky.  In many cases, the narrowing of the gap between he and Clinton is not necessarily a result of growing support for him as it is hemorrhaging support for her.  In this context, the only reason this serves as a boon for Obama is because Edwards is usually too far behind and not picking up enough support in his own right to pose a serious threat to Barack’s second place status.

In other words, if this race ends up in an upset for Obama under current conditions, it’s not because Obama  won it so much as because Hillary lost it.

On the Republican side, the above polls only go to show just how whacky the GOP contest is right now.  According to Rasmussen, Huckabee has knocked Giuliani off the nationwide high horse, but many of the candidates are within striking distance.

When we drop down to the early state polls however, Romney still looks like the man to beat, except Huck is challenging in Iowa as well.  I’m not sure if this elevates Huck from spoiler status to true contender yet.  To be honest his surge seems way too strong and quick to not be stat noise, but I could be wrong.

Still, I think Mitt’s ground game is still a force to be reckoned with.  Romney has never stood as the national favorite, and the only reason that he fell behind Huck is most likely based on religion.  Supposedly tomorrow night Romney is going to deliver a major address on faith and politics (it’s been billed all week), and if he nails it, that could neutralize Huck’s push which is largely fueled by Religious Right foot soldiers.

So for now, I’m going to have stand by the fact that I think Mitt is still the man to beat in the Republican race.

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