Politics1 has the news:

National polls are of little real value in measing who is actually leading in the Democratic race for the Presidential nomination. The key barometer of frontrunner status at this point is the cumulative trend of results from the various early contest states. Still, national polls show a broader current measure of general perceptions of Democrats. The new Newsweek poll out this weekend already has Wesley Clark leaping to the head the field — just days after his late entrance into the contest. The numbers: Clark-14%, Howard Dean-12%, Joe Lieberman-12%, John Kerry-10%, Dick Gephardt-8%, Al Sharpton-7%, John Edwards-6%, Bob Graham-4%, and Carol Braun and Dennis Kucinich tied for last place with 2% apiece. These numbers are fun to discuss — but numbers from NH, IA, CA, AZ, NM, SC, OK, NY, MI and etc., matter a whole lot more. Let’s see how Clark does in some of those states. The same poll also showed that President Bush’s overall approval rating dropped to just 51%. However, in head-to-head contests, Bush still defeats any of his challengers. The numbers: Bush-47% versus Clark-43%; Bush-48% versus Kerry-43%; and Bush-52% versus Dean-38%. In related news, Clark’s campaign on Sunday announced that they had raised $750,000 in the first three days since his announcement. They added that the amount does not include any of the $1.9 million his supporters pledged during the draft effort before Clark deciced to run.

This analysis is exactly right: Clark’s explosive start is interesting but probably doesn’t mean a lot. It could well be an indication that no one is particularly excited about the rest of the Democratic field but, frankly, that’s always the case this far out. Ditto Bush’s rather meager showing right now in the “any Democrat” contest. Given the summer doldrums, with presidents having little chance to “look presidential,” numbers almost always go down. Combined with a lackluster economy and the steady trickle of bad news from Iraq, I’m actually a bit surprised the numbers are as high as they are.

Update (2053): Steven Taylor has a take on this as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.