"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Political Junkies' Nirvana

The Iowa newspaper of record, The Des Moines Register has released a new poll in the closing days before the caucuses illustrating once again why this may be the best of times for self-described political junkies like myself.

The contest is TOO CLOSE TO CALL. Make that BOTH contests.

I'm not sure if it could get any better than this - except to say the quick succession of primary contests means the nomination battle's frantic race to the (likely) Tsunami Tuesday finish line will mean the rollercoaster ride will be far too short.

The top Democratic headline from the DMR: "New Iowa Poll: Obama Widens Lead Over Clinton" announces Obama has opened the largest lead (32%-25% over Clinton) any candidate has enjoyed over the course of the year-long campaign in the Hawkeye State. But David Yepsen, the journalistic dean of Iowa politics writes (in the same Register) about the risk of making predictions from this poll.
  • Some support is soft. Of those who have decided on a candidate, 34 percent of the Democrats say they could still be persuaded to change their minds. Among Republicans, it's 46 percent.
  • A lot of caucus-goers are first-timers. A whopping 60 percent of the Democrats say this would be their first time at a caucus. Some 40 percent of the Republicans say that.
  • A lot of Democratic caucus-goers aren't all that Democratic. Some 40 percent of the Democratic caucus-goers say they are independents, and another 5 percent say they are Republicans. (Technically, they'll all have to re-register as Democrats to participate, but that can be done at the caucus site.) Put another way, 54 percent of the Democratic caucus-goers say they're Democrats. In 2004, it was 80 percent.

What this all means is Obama's "widening lead" is built on a very soft (and unpredictable) foundation. Many other polls taken during the same period weight previous caucus-goers more heavily. These polls continue to show a tight three-way race. Any of the leading campaigns can build a strong case for finishing first Thursday night.

Digging deeper into the numbers, it's interesting to see the issues divide between the GOP and Dem voters going into the caucuses. Immigration looms large on the Republican side while only 3% mention healthcare as an issue. Only 3% of Democrats are concerned about immigration; they're motivated by the war in Iraq and healthcare.

As a Democrat,the best news from the DMR poll may be this nugget (again from Yepsen):

* Democrats are on fire. And what if 40 percent of the Democratic caucus-goers are independents and 5 percent are Republicans? That tells us the GOP is in real trouble, that a lot of Americans want change and that they are turning to the Democrats to find it.

"Hold on, boys and girls, strap yourselves in and please keep your arms and legs inside the car. This rollercoaster is going to be unlike any other you've ever been on."

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