WaPo’s Primary Dispatches shows some interesting movement in the Iowa polling:

With former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt slugging it here in increasingly harsh and personal ways, something seems to be happening under the surface: The other candidates are gaining on them.

For months, media types have been pegging the Iowa contest as a two-way race between Dean and Gephardt. But tracking data this week has suggested a slow erosion of Dean’s support and an inability by Gephardt to expand his support in the days before the election.

A couple things appear to be happening:

  • People are getting turned off by the negativity of the sniping between Gephardt and Dean.
  • As the large number of undecided Iowans are finally starting to make up their minds, they’re going to Kerry and Edwards, rather than Dean or Gephardt.

Given the nature of a caucus, though, which emphasizes the type of enthusiastic support required to go stand around debating the merits of the candidates on a cold Monday evening, “preference” isn’t nearly as importance as energy.

What’s more interesting to me is the surprise withdrawal of Carol Moseley Braun, which I heard about on NPR this morning and was reminded of with this story. Not that she was a factor in the race or that it particularly matters, but because she was never going to be a factor and therefore had to be running simply for the exposure. She was running on a shoestring budget and could have continued like that for months. She has less chance of being the Vice Presidential nominee than Al Sharpton, so there’s not a payoff here. So why now?

Update (1319): Stephen Green notes that the Fox report on the Braun departure was woefully lacking in analysis. My response in his comments section,

Well, considering that her standing in the polls was a small fraction of the margin of error, there’s not a whole lot to say, really.

Some analysis from Fox:

Brit: Who benefits most from the three votes now up for grabs with CMB out of the race.

Mort: Brit, to be fair, it’s more like four votes. This is a huge boost for Dennis Kucinich, whose own stupidity was overshadowed by that of CMB.

Juan: CMB’s departure is sad. She really brought a lot of grace to the race and improved her stature as a political leader.

Fred: Juan, you and Mort are dolts. Clearly, Al Sharpton will get those votes. And, Brit and Mort, you’re both wrong–it’s more like two votes.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. hln says:

    Gephardt just needs to go home and stop trying to play presidential candidate. Carol’s got some common sense for doing the same.


  2. James Joyner says:

    If Gephardt isn’t at least a very, very close second in Iowa, he’ll almost certainly do just that. He’s not going to win in New Hampshire and he’s a big enough candidate that he needs lots of cash. His money will dry up quickly if he doesn’t do well in Iowa, which is his own backyard.

  3. bryan says:

    Mosely-Braun didn’t get her matching funds paperwork turned in by the deadline for January. I think that has the most to do with it. Even a shoestring needs some federal extension to keep it going. I got the feeling from the reports that whoever was running her campaign office was not doing an admirable job.