Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 1, 2008

UNEXPECTED RESULTS FROM THE DMR....It seemed as if the political/media world had finally settled on a narrative for the Iowa caucuses -- Hillary Clinton had a reasonably solid lead, John Edwards had the big mo and was in position to pull the upset, and Mike Huckabee was sinking fast.

Of course, of all of that may still be true, but the highly-anticipated poll from the Des Moines Register doesn't fit the narrative at all.

Among Dems, Barack Obama is in the lead with 32% (up from 28% in early December), followed by Clinton with 25% (unchanged), and Edwards with 24% (up from 23%). No other candidate had more than 6% support, and Obama's seven-point lead is the largest any Democrat has enjoyed in any DMR poll this year.

Among Republicans, Huckabee leads with 32% (up from 29% in early December), Mitt Romney is second with 24% (down from 26%), and John McCain is third with 13% (up from 7%). Rudy Giuliani has dropped to a distant sixth place with 5% support -- four points behind Ron Paul.

There's no shortage of analysis about What It All Means, but here are a few points to consider:

* The DMR poll isn't exactly in line with other recent numbers from the state, but it's generally the most respected poll in the state, and has a strong track record for accuracy. (The caveat to this, of course, is that all polling over the holidays is inherently tricky.)

* Ben Smith notes the makeup of the poll participants: "The Register poll is including a surprising 40% of independents and 5% of Republicans among the people likely to attend the Democratic caucuses. If that pans out on January 4, it's hard to see how Obama wouldn't win. On the other hand, as David Yepsen points out, Hillary is actually winning among Democrats, who made up 80% of the caucus-goers last cycle."

* The Edwards campaign is arguing that the poll is exaggerating the likely participation of first-timers, which may very well be true.

* Noam Scheiber raises a very interesting point about self-fulfilling prophecies: "[T]he Register poll isn't just a description of what's going on. More than any other poll, it actually influences what goes on. Iowans will wake up [today] to find a headline that says, 'Obama Widens Lead Over Clinton.' And, human psychology being what it is, that may well push them into the Obama camp Thursday night."

Stay tuned.

Steve Benen 10:16 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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"More than any other poll, it actually influences what goes on. Iowans will wake up [today] to find a headline that says, 'Obama Widens Lead Over Clinton.' And, human psychology being what it is, that may well push them into the Obama camp Thursday night"

I will never understand this kind of reaction. Will people ever learn to think for themselves?

Posted by: Lew on January 1, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

And I'll raise another interesting point. Well, interesting to me...
As the polls have become more and more important over the years, those who respond to them--self-selecting to ther extent that they make themselves available, and/or don't hang up--have become the unknown stars of the show. Combine that with basic Human Nature, and what do you think is bound to happen? I think some of them are, how you say, having a bit of fun with us. Not this poll specifically, but all of them generally. I wonder, too, if this has occurred to the pollsters, and what they think of the idea. Not much, would be my guess...

Posted by: Doozer on January 1, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

No doubt the DMR poll will also fire up the supporters of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to do all they can today and tomorrow to persuade others to join with them when they caucus on Thursday. So we'll see what happens then.

Posted by: David W. on January 1, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I think we ought to wait until Friday to see how this all shakes out.

Frankly, the top three Democrats are too close to call. Weather, karma, or just plain dumb luck could all be important.

Huckabee could still find a way to stumble. After all he has Ed Rollins on his team.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 1, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

The eastern Iowa Newspaper -Quad City times is virtually campaigning for Hillary even before they officially endorsed her. Their political articles seem to be written at her campaign highquarters.it may have an effect yet.

Posted by: Jim on January 1, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

FYI, the weather forecast for Iowa on Thursday is for sunny skies and temps in the high 20s by late afternoon. So that won't be as much of a factor as once feared, given how the caucuses were moved up to January 3rd.

Posted by: David W. on January 1, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

You are assuming that us folks in Iowa actually 1) read the DM Register
2) believe what they say
3) think David Yepsen's analysis and insight of the polls and "campaign mojo"is worth anything at all

You may be right, but this is one Iowan who is not buying it (and I have YET to decide if and who to caucus for) Cheers, D

Posted by: Dave on January 1, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

This poll and all of the others are really just eye candy to the true believers. And I say this as an Iowa resident who will be participating in an Iowa caucus for the first time in a couple days! The DMR poll was, again, conducted by contacting 800 "likely" caucus voters... which is fine. But the caucus system doesn't work on a 'one person- one vote' metric. So polls have a tough time quantifying individual candidate outcomes here. The fact that the DMR poll is the 'most historically accurate' is probably just a rough coincidence.


From desminesdem at Bleeding Heartland >>> "Within counties, delegates are NOT awarded by a winner-take-all system. They are allocated among the precincts (there are just under 2,000 precincts statewide), based again on how many votes were cast in that precinct for Democrats at the top of the ticket in recent general elections.

By way of example, my precinct in the Des Moines suburbs has six delegates to assign in the caucus. That number will not change, whether 50 people or 500 people show up on caucus night. A neighboring precinct that is more Democratic has eight delegates to assign. Next January, even if we have 300 people in our precinct caucus and the neighboring one has 100 people in the room, we will still get to assign six delegates, and they will get to assign eight."

For those bloodsport wonks (like me) who want to drill down into the Iowa Democratic caucus protocols there is an EXCELLENT rundown at
Bleeding Heartland http://www.bleedingheartland.com/showDiary.do;jsessionid=5576FAB86B948DCA1020020EA9A02DC0?diaryId=848
Part I at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/2/27/13388/4218 is particularly good at explaining why polls like this are really just for entertainment.

Posted by: Bigsky in Iowa on January 1, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

If we are going to talk horse race, you all might want to know that John Edwards
has just put up what might be the best political video of the campaign. I wonder if he has the money to put it on the air.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 1, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Edwards is up 3 points over the four days of the DMR poll.

From the DMR's David Yepsen discussing his paper's poll:

"the nightly results show Obama's support flat over the last two nights, Clinton's declining each night, and Edwards' support increasing each night."

A quarter of caucus-goers will decide in the final three days. I'll take momentum. The Edwards surge continues.

Posted by: Petey on January 1, 2008 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

..It seemed as if the political/media world had finally settled on a narrative for the Iowa caucuses

You made that up. The only agreed narrative is that you can't predict the caucus results from the poll results.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on January 1, 2008 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

>"Will people ever learn to think for themselves? "

Based on the track record of humanity, don't hold your breath.

Other political news this morning... Clinton and Obama campaigns each topped the $100 million fundraising mark today. Donors will be expecting a good ROI.

Posted by: Buford on January 1, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

My own analysis showed the DMR to have an average actual error rate of 7% for any given candidate getting at least ten percent. Since there wasn't any particular bias for or against front runners that means this thing is still very wide open.

Posted by: AJ on January 1, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

After a long wait for the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, Republicans can take heart: He has arrived.

Unfortunately he is a black man who is currently leading the race for the Democratic Party nomination.

Posted by: lampwick on January 1, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Dave: it's time for the torch to pass to a new generation. Vote Obama Thursday night.

Posted by: lina on January 1, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

But Zogby just announced its latest poll shows Clinton support solidifying.

And, Bigsky, the complexity of Iowa caucuses, especially on the Democratic side, are just another reason why it shouldn't lead the nation.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 1, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Polls in IA don't mean shit. It's all turnout. Obama supporters are often young and inexperienced. Will they show up? Edwards has a very deep and strong organization.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 1, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree that the latest DMR poll may "influence" the caucus results, this actually makes me think the poll results were carefully screened by the DMR staff before their release. Keep in mind the Register endorsed Clinton. So it was to the paper's advantage to stick with the conventional wisdom: Clinton 1st, Edwards 2nd and Obama 3rd. The fact that the poll results show Obama solidifying his first place position seems all the more plausible considering it is against the editorial board's interests.

Posted by: Marit, Bethesda, MD on January 1, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

"...And, human psychology being what it is, that may well push them into the Obama camp Thursday night."

People are very strange things.

Posted by: craigie on January 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

At first glance, even when taking into consideration that polling caucus-goers is a tricky and often unreliable business, the Des Moines Register's poll appears to be an outlier.

But that being said, one has to respect the plain and simple fact that (a) this is the hometown paper on its own turf; (b) as such, the D-M Register regularly polls its home crowd on any variety of subjects; and (c) as well-respected as they might be, the other polling organizations are true interlopers whose only significant presence in Iowa occurs one two- or three-month period every four years.

Regardless, we'll see whose supporters show up on Thursday night, won't we? For all the hype, hoopla and prognostications, the immediate runners-up can take solace in the notion that the winner is unlikely to carry more than one-third of the total caucus vote in a crowded field, and that the only real knockout blows to be landed will likely fall upon the lower tier of candidates in both parties.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii in New Orleans -- Go Warriors! on January 1, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

'Obama Widens Lead Over Clinton.' And, human psychology being what it is, that may well push them into the Obama camp Thursday night."

Then again, on a chilly January evening in Iowa, such headlines could comfort many an Obama-supporting marginal caucus participant (and Obama is likely to need many of those to win) into staying home where it's warm.

Posted by: Jasper on January 1, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

A quarter of caucus-goers will decide in the final three days. I'll take momentum. The Edwards surge continues.

Well, I hope you're right.

Posted by: not committing self in public here so as to evade deluge of melodramatic statements from intemperat on January 1, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

uh, that was "...from intemperate candidate-shilling posters." It appears that there is an upper limit for childish signatures.

Posted by: not committing self on January 1, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

What's with C-SPAN putting Bill Clinton's speech on 4 or 5 times in two days? they aren't becoming "Fair and Balanced" like Faux news, are they?

Bill isn't a candidate and yet he gets more air time than any of the leading Dem candidates. Why?

What I want to know is this, if Bill Clinton were elected president again, would he invite Monica Lewinsky to live with him in the White House?

You think that's an awful question, just wait until the Republicans get started. We can't afford more of Clinton-Bush-Clinton-Bush.

Also, why is every other word or phrase out of a Clinton's mouth just a copy of what John Edwards has been saying for 9 months? Can't they think of anything original?

Hillary might make a good Veep, but she isn't a Progressive Dem and she isn't much of a leader. She's persistent and works well with others, but those aren't the most important qualities we need in a President.


John Edwards for President -- Leadership and the drive to get it done!

Posted by: MarkH on January 1, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

uh huh. I support Edwards but MarkH is about to drive me around the bend with the sloganeering. Political blog comment threads are not hybrid Civic bumpers.

Posted by: not committing self on January 1, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Here's something I haven't seen discussed much...doesn't the 15% viability threshhold at the caucuses have the potential to throw this thing to Edwards? In other words, the Kucinich/Dodd camp, not being able to get over the 15% threshhold at the caucuses, might well throw their votes to him as opposed to Hilary/Obama/going home. I don't claim to be an expert on the caucuses but based on my understanding of how the process works, this could be a big factor.

Posted by: karma frog on January 1, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if this process could be more ridiculous. We have an absurd Iowa caucus system supposedly about to have a huge effect on the nominations for president and now a poll of 800 democrats and presumably 800 republicans that supposedly will have a big effect on the caucuses. Having said that, I confess to smiling as I read Hillary dropping 9 points to Obama and 6 points to Edwards over the three days of the poll - if Hillary's internal polls are showing a similar drop, she must be panicking. I think the sooner the Clintons are removed from our presidential political process, the better.

Posted by: brian on January 1, 2008 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK
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