If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


The Two Races for President and the Race within the Race

A Commentary By Douglas Schoen

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

There are two underlying trends that have emerged when examining recent poll results.

The Democrats have two elections taking place within their primary race. One is the national election, which shows Hillary Clinton in a lead that ranges from 10 points in the recent CNN-Opinion Research poll, to 30 points according to the ABC/Washington Post poll. Most likely, her lead is somewhere in the middle - the Real Clear Politics average has her lead at 18.5 points over Barack Obama. This represents a continuing commanding position for Senator Clinton.

Then there is another election in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Looking at the polls in those states, Clinton and Barack Obama are effectively in a statistical tie. In each of those states, the Real Clear Politics average has the difference between Clinton and Obama no greater than three points. The real question then, remains unclear: if Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina finish in a tie or a very close outcome, will any of the candidates, particularly Obama, gain momentum from the results?

There is evidence to suggest that even if the early states end in a tie or with an Obama win, Clinton could have enough support in states like Florida, New York, Michigan, Nevada, California and New Jersey, where she is well ahead of Obama. In these states, Clinton’s lead in the most recent polls range from 24 points in California, to 34 points in New Jersey. In Michigan and Florida she leads by 31 and 30 points respectively. Thus, even if she has troubles early on, she could still emerge as the winner. Of course, if Obama wins the first three states he could overturn that lead, but this is all speculation right now.

The Republican side is currently suggestive of a substantial breakthrough from Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is in a statistical tie with Rudy Giuliani in almost every recent national poll including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll. This is a tremendous increase in support, as Huckabee was in fifth place a month ago and Giuliani’s lead at that time was substantial.

Huckabee’s surge has not been felt in every state – in New Hampshire, for instance, he remains in fourth place and around 20 points behind leader Mitt Romney. But the more enduring point is that the Republicans seem to be falling in lockstep with him. Huckabee’s latest numbers suggest that if he has a win in Iowa and wins South Carolina (which he leads by 7 points), he could receive enough momentum to carry the nomination.

To be sure, Huckabee could be attacked for lacking fiscal conservative credentials, for his pardons that have received national scrutiny recently, and for being excessively close to the religious right. Still, at this point, it seems clear that Huckabee has made a greater breakthrough on the Republican side than Obama has on the Democratic side.

Carly Cooperman contributed to this article.

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.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.