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Changes in the Democratic Race

A Commentary By Douglas E. Schoen

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I have argued for the last couple of months that the Democratic primary race has been static, representing a strong, if not dominant position for Hillary Clinton. In light of current polling, it is important to acknowledge that Barack Obama has made significant progress in the last month in states like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The most recent polls out of New Hampshire show Clinton’s lead over Obama down to 8 points (33.4% to 25.4%), according to the Real Clear Politics average. The Mason-Dixon poll just released says that Clinton’s lead has shrunk to three points (30% to 27%). In South Carolina, the Real Clear Politics Average has Clinton’s lead at less than seven points, with two of the most recent polls, Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen, showing Clinton and Obama in a statistical tie. Even in Nevada, where Clinton once held a 40-point lead, Obama trails only by 8 points, according to the Mason-Dixon poll (34% to 26%).

Curiously enough, the state that showed the least change is Iowa. Even when Clinton was considered to have a solid lead in Iowa, her lead was no more than a few points outside the margin of error. Now, with Obama at his highest support level yet, the Real Clear Politics average gives him a 1.6-point lead – a relatively small change. The Mason-Dixon poll has Hillary Clinton two points ahead. The recent Newsweek poll, which has Clinton behind Obama by six points for likely caucus-goers, reported a tie between the two candidates when it included all Democratic voters. Turnout is very difficult to predict. And so, the Iowa race remains static as it continues to be in a statistical tie.

Hillary Clinton still does have some important advantages in Iowa. Her support is older and comes from women; Barack Obama’s is younger and comes from men. With the caucus occurring on the night of the Orange Bowl and with most Iowa universities not in session, this gives a slight advantage to Hillary Clinton.

Thus, while the media hype has exaggerated the recent poll results in Iowa, the net impact appears to have legitimately helped Barack Obama in other early states.

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