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The Democratic Race Appears Static

A Commentary By Douglas Schoen

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

Several recent polls and the Real Clear Politics Averages have suggested that Hillary Clinton no longer leads the Democratic race in Iowa, raising questions about her inevitability as the Democratic nominee. Based on the polls that have been released recently, the race has certainly tightened, but Senator Clinton maintains a clear advantage over the field – an advantage that continues to be quite considerable. An examination of the five most recent polls shows that the race began within the margin of error in Iowa, and remains within the margin of error in Iowa.

This weekend, The Des Moines Register released their new Iowa poll of likely caucus-goers, and for the first time in the Register’s poll, Barack Obama leads with 28%, followed by Clinton with 25% and John Edwards with 23%. An ABC News/Washington Post poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers released last Tuesday shows Obama at 30%, Clinton at 26% and Edwards at 22%. And a poll just released by the American Research Group has Obama at 27%, Clinton at 25% and Edwards at 23%. These polls were taken by many in the media that Hillary Clinton had slipped. Earlier polling shows that the race in Iowa is still within a margin of error.

In the two most recent polls conducted by Strategic Vision and Rasmussen Reports, Clinton is either tied with Obama or ahead. The Strategic Vision poll has Clinton and Obama tied at 29%, while Edwards trails at 23%. The most recent Rasmussen data shows Clinton at 27%, Obama at 25% and Edwards at 24%. The Real Clear Politics average of the latest polls shows effectively a statistical tie with Obama at 27.5%, Clinton at 27.2% and Edwards at 22.3%. This is the best approximation of where they stand.

What does all of this mean? Not much.

In the first three polls – the Des Moines Register’s poll, the ABC News/Washington Post poll and the American Research Group’s poll, Obama’s lead falls within the margin of error of the surveys. Obama and Clinton are essentially in a statistical tie in Iowa, which in effect confirms what we have known for a while: that Iowa will be a very close race.

All of this media hype should not allow us to overlook the fact that Clinton still has a strong lead in national polls, other early states like Michigan and Nevada, and a very solid lead in the February 5th “Super Tuesday” states. Real Clear Politics averages show Clinton leading Obama 50% to 20.7% in New Jersey and 48% to 20% in California. In New York, Clinton leads Obama 50% to 20% and in Arizona, she leads 44% to 14%.

However, her lead in the New Hampshire primary is also thinning, although it is still outside the margin of error. The most recent Rasmussen poll shows Clinton at 33%, Obama at 26% and Edwards at 15%. This is the first time her lead over Obama has shrunk to single-digits in this state. Thus, the Democratic primary race could well be tightening, but Clinton has not suffered any serious erosion despite what has been reported. The race is still Hillary Clinton’s to win.

Douglas Schoen is a founding and former partner of Penn Schoen & Berland, and a Fox News Contributor.

Schoen was President Bill Clinton's research and strategic consultant during the 1996 reelection campaign.

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