Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iowa Republicans Not Sure on Eve of Vote

Adam Nagourny and Megan Thee report the results of the latest New York Times poll on the Iowa caucuses. Republican voters are up in the air on their choices:

Three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Republican voters across the country appear uninspired by their field of presidential candidates, with a vast majority saying they have not made a final decision about whom to support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the Republican electorate, the poll found. And in a sign of the fluidity of the race, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who barely registered in early polls several months ago, is now locked in a tight contest nationally with Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

By contrast, Democrats are happier with their field and more settled in their decisions. For all the problems Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be having holding off her rivals in Iowa and New Hampshire, she remains strong nationally, the poll found. Even after what her aides acknowledge have been two of the roughest months of her candidacy, she is viewed by Democrats as a far more electable presidential nominee than either Senator Barack Obama or John Edwards.

Not only do substantially more Democratic voters judge her to be ready for the presidency than believe Mr. Obama is prepared for the job, the poll found, but more Democrats also see Mrs. Clinton rather than Mr. Obama as someone who can unite the country.

The Republican and Democratic nominating contests, which begin with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, are approaching at a time of anxiety and uncertainty. Americans, the poll found, think the economy is bad and getting worse. A vast majority think the country is heading in the wrong direction. More people cite the Iraq war as the most important issue facing the country than cite any other matter, and though 38 percent say the dispatch of extra troops to Iraq this year is working, a majority continue to say that undertaking the war was a mistake.

The candidates are running against a backdrop of a decidedly negative view of Washington. At 21 percent, the approval rating for this Democratic-led Congress is at a new low, reflecting the defection of independent voters, a potentially worrisome development for Democrats going into next year’s Congressional elections. President Bush’s approval rating is at 28 percent, one point above the lowest of his tenure.

The poll confirmed that former President Bill Clinton was an effective campaign weapon for his wife. Forty-four percent of Democratic voters say Mr. Clinton’s involvement will make them more likely to support her. In fact, about as many of Mrs. Clinton’s backers say they are supporting her because of her husband as say they are supporting her because of her own experience.

The poll found that just 1 percent said they might be swayed by the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who has been campaigning for Mr. Obama in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire the last three days, drawing huge crowds and allowing his campaign to identify new supporters.

The nationwide telephone poll, of 1,028 voters, was taken from last Wednesday through Sunday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Within that group, 266 respondents identified themselves as likely Republican voters, and 417 as likely Democratic voters; the margin of sampling error among the Democrats is five percentage points, and among the Republicans six percentage points.

More than anything else, the poll underlines sharp differences between the Republican and Democratic electorate in how each views its candidates. Democratic voters, on the whole, see their candidates considerably more favorably than Republicans see theirs.
Read the whole thing.

An encouraging sign for John McCain backers: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa voters hold positive views of John McCain. The Arizona Senator is second to Rudy Giuliani. While McCain's largely conceded the Iowa caucuses, his favorables there might translate into less of rout than expected, which could redound positively on the New Hampshire and South Carolina races, especially if either Mitt Romney or Giuliance faces an upset in one of the early contests.

Note this as well:

In the national poll by The Times and CBS News, Republican voters said by 61 percent to 27 percent that they were looking for a presidential candidate who had the right experience rather than one with new ideas. Democrats were far more evenly divided on which of those two qualities was more important.
This is a point Ron Claiborne raised in his comment yesterday at ABC News.

See also my posts on recent media endorsements of McCain,
here and here.