Less than a month before Americans officially begin choosing their next President, the Democratic and Republican races in the first caucus state of Iowa are essentially dead heats, new Zogby telephone polls show.
In the first primary state of New Hampshire, Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York retains an 11–point lead, down from what had been a 15–point lead in late September. However, Republican Mitt Romney's strength in the Granite State remains strong with double the support of his nearest rival among likely Republican primary voters.
Clinton leads the Democratic race here with 27%, followed closely by Barack Obama of Illinois at 24% and John Edwards of North Carolina with 21%. There has been very little movement in the Democratic race here since last month, as the front–runners essentially stood still and two lower–tier candidates – Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio – gained two points each.
In fact, this race has remained remarkably stable for the past year. Zogby telephone polling in Iowa last January showed it to be a three–way race with 13% undecided – now, 11% say they have yet to make up their minds.
Since last month, however, Clinton was able to solidify her standing among some likely caucus–goers by increasing the number of people who said she would be their second choice. This is a critical factor in the Democratic caucus in Iowa. In the caucuses, a first round of “balloting” is conducted, and those candidates who do not win at least 15% support are ruled “unviable” and supporters are directed to a second choice among those who remained “viable” before a second round of “balloting” is conducted.
Last month, Obama and Edwards were much more preferred as a second choice among those candidates who appear to be unviable under Democratic caucus rules. Clinton appears to be gaining ground among those who might consider experience to be an important factor in choosing a nominee – she wins the lion’s share of support among those who make Biden their first choice, and she does well among those who would first choose New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Among those who make Obama their first choice, Edwards is their second choice, and vice versa. Among those who make Clinton their first choice, Obama is the favorite second choice.
Among independents who said they would caucus with the Democrats, Obama leads with 31%, followed by Edwards at 26% and Clinton at 19%.
Among Iowa women, Clinton leads with 33%, followed by Obama and Edwards, both at 23%. Among men, Obama leads with 26%, followed by Clinton at 20% and Edwards at 19%. Richardson wins 10% and Biden 9% among men.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts retains a narrow edge over Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, but it is essentially a dead heat, the Zogby survey shows. Romney has lost five points in the last month, while Huckabee has soared, gaining 10 points since Zogby’s Nov. 7 poll.
Huckabee has taken the most support from Romney, but his gain also comes as Fred Thompson of Tennessee and John McCain of Arizona lost ground.
Among women, Huckabee leads Romney, 25% to 24%, but Romney leads Huckabee among men, 28% to 26%.