Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, January 16, 2004  

Every day we have new polling numbers that cause a bit of shock and awe among supporters of Dean, Gehardt, Clark, and Kerry. Two polls out today have these totals in Iowa (Zogby): Kerry 24%, Dean 19%, Gephardt 19%, Edwards 17%, and NH (ARG): Dean 28%, Clark 23%, Kerry 16%. Amazing, eh? Kerry's going to win Iowa.

Don't bet the farm on it.

A few things muddy these waters. First, the Iowa caucus system is a strange bird. The way it works is that Iowans gather together and have townhall-style meetings and hash out the candidates. Supporters of each candidate try to woo undecideds and later supporters of minor candidates. Kerry may be polling at 24%, but will he get those 24% to show up at the caucuses? Iowa's brutal because you have to get your candidates out, and once they're at the caucus site, they have to be persuasive enough to pick up other voters. This always benefits the most organized, and despite polling numbers (unreliable in Iowa anyway because of the caucus system) Gephardt and Dean have a big advantage.

Also, I think when the wheeling and dealing starts, the Deanies are going to be able to make a pretty good argument that a their candidate is the horse to back. Gephardt supporters will be harder pressed to convince folks that Dick can scrap his way past Clark, Dean, and now Kerry to win the nomination. So when negotiations begin, I expect Dean to hold his own. (And looking at the numbers, Clark may be regretting he pulled out of Iowa so soon.)

Now let's look at New Hampshire. Clark has it all to himself (well, almost--Lieberman's there, playing out the string until his inevitable withdrawal), which means day after day he's been hammering Dean. But after Iowa, Dean will be able to return fire. Then it will be Clark who'll be on the defensive--not only for attacks from Dean, but Kerry, who will be trying to stay alive in the campaign. Kerry may even find it a more reasonable proposition to aim for#2 than going for it all.

I'd be a fool to make any predictions, but I will hedge to this degree: I think the trends are misleading. Dean's not as weak as the numbers indicate, and I can't believe Kerry's as strong. Given the day-to-day volatility, one shouldn't put too much stock in the polls.

posted by Jeff | 12:39 PM |
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