Campaign Polls: All Politics is Local?

Rudy Giuliani is leading the Republican race by a wide margin and Mitt Romney is in a distant fourth. Hillary Clinton is dominating the Democratic field with Barack Obama a distant second and nobody else even close. That’s the conventional wisdom as reinforced by the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Yet, quite a few serious analysts think Mitt Romney is in the best position to win the GOP nomination and that John Edwards, not Obama, is the strongest challenger to Clinton. How can that be? They’re ignoring the national polls and focusing on the three races that will set the stage for the race: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The latest Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg survey in those states reinforces that view.

Andrew Malcolm breaks it down:

At the beginning of the autumn dash to the primaries, a new Times/Bloomberg Poll of 3,211 Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina shows that Hillary Clinton maintains a strong lead in all three states (28%, 35% and 45%, respectively). John Edwards is a relatively close second in Iowa (23%) with Obama at 19%, tied for second at 16% with Barack Obama in New Hampshire and trailing Obama badly (27% to 7%) in South Carolina.


In the Republican race, Mitt Romney holds a clear lead in Iowa (28%) to Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tied for second at 16%. Mike Huckabee comes in third at 8%, John McCain at 7%, Tom Tancredo at 3%, Ron Paul and Sam Brownback at 2% and Duncan Hunter at 1%.

Romney maintains a slimmer lead in New Hampshire, 28% to Giuliani’s 23%, while McCain has moved up to third with 12% and Thompson at 11%, two points behind Don’t Know. In South Carolina, newcomer Thompson has surged into the lead with 26% to Giuliani’s 23%, McCain’s 15% and Romney’s 9%. Huckabee has 6%. The poll was taken Sept. 6-10 with a margin of error of +/- 4 or 5%.

So much for Huckabee’s strong showing in the Ames Straw Poll, I guess. There are still four months of campaigning left, so these numbers are likely quite soft. I’m still not convinced that Romney can get the Republican base to support him, even if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire convincingly. South Carolina will break the momentum and perhaps derail the train permanently.

On the Democratic side, though, the nomination appears wrapped up. Granted, Howard Dean seemed a sure thing in the fall of 2003, too. But he was a newcomer to the national political scene. Clinton has been in the spotlight since 1991 and has shown remarkable discipline.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Granted, Howard Dean seemed a sure thing in the fall of 2003, too. But he was a newcomer to the national political scene. Clinton has been in the spotlight since 1991 and has shown remarkable discipline.

    In addition Sen. Clinton has an actual boots-on-the-ground organization. Like Ron Paul on this year’s Republican side, Howard Dean had a very committed but particularly deep organization.

    I think we’ll also find that practically all party regulars will support Sen. Clinton.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    The subject could make an interesting blog post in December, but right now you would do just about as well using a sheeps liver to predict the future. So many chances to stumble, so many chances to shine and so many voters not paying attention yet.

    Further, I suspect that while Iraq will be one of the top three issues in the 2008 campaign, we will see one of the top three issues be something we aren’t expecting today.

  3. legion says:

    In a mildly related development, it’s rumbling that Pat Buchanan might run for a Senate seat from Virgina next year.

    If Larry Craig refuses to resign, next fall could be teh awsumest Senate election cycle EVAR.

  4. mw says:

    I think you are bit early with both calls. Yeah, it looks like full steam ahead for her campaign right now, but there is plenty of time for Hilary to get off course. If she does, all bets are off for the Dems. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dark horse like Chris Dodd pick up Clinton’s supporters if her campaign takes a torpedo below the waterline. She is certainly capable of finding a way to lose.

    Your scenario with the Reps is plausible, but I think we need to see Fred in at least one debate before we can assess his potential impact or lack thereof.

    All “Politics is Local?” Pretty good conventional wisdom. But not always. It certainly wasn’t in 2006. With a 130,000+ still in Iraq through at least next summer, it won’t be in 2008 either.