The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics conducted the first big Iowa Poll of the year, asking likely caucus-goers who they would caucus for. It provided a wealth of information for those of us wishing to dissect the presidential race still in its infancy. So let’s get to it:

Democrats: Clinton Maintains Huge Lead

On the Democratic side, it’s pretty cut-and-dry. Hillary Clinton dominates the Democratic field, reigning over the others at 56%. The next closest is Elizabeth Warren, at 16%. So is the message “Abandon all hope, ye who enter Iowa whose name is not Hillary Clinton?” Not quite.

Martin O’Malley sitting at 1% highlights the shortcomings of these early polls. He made himself well-known to Iowa activists during multiple trips in 2014, built key networks by lending staff to several Iowa Democrats’ campaigns, and is winning the early staffing race. His buzz in Iowa is growing among tuned-in Iowa activists. That will yield him dividends when the campaign begins in earnest.

Random thoughts for Democrats:

– Just like last time, Joe Biden is polling under the 15% viability threshold for the Democrats’ caucus. But he’s a huge 2nd choice at 26%. If he runs and other candidates stumble, the Vice President could be the main beneficiary.

– Clinton’s favorability improved since the last Iowa Poll on October 14th. Good news for the candidate starting to face consternation among Iowa activists for postponing a campaign.

– Another positive result for Clinton: only 19% think her strength is tied to her family connections to politics. Her husband may have been president, but Hillary has more than built her own reputation and legacy over the years. Her stint as Secretary of State puts her in a much stronger position than when she entered the 2008 presidential race.

– How much of Elizabeth Warren’s support will flow to Bernie Sanders if she doesn’t run? 16% is a decent chunk for other candidates to grab.

– I’m surprised Jim Webb is at 3%. Didn’t think even that many people knew who he was yet.

– President Obama is still extremely popular among likely Democratic caucus-goers, with a favorability of 86%. That kills my theory that a long-shot presidential candidate could stand out and gain traction by bashing Obama’s presidency as a failure.

Republican Race is Anyone’s Game

The big news from the Iowa Poll was that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tops the competition, following an impressive speech at the Steve King summit. Some in the media were quick to trumpet Walker’s standing, but let’s slow down the hype train: 15% is still 15%. Five other Republicans were less than seven points behind him. If anything, the poll made clear what many Iowa Republicans believe: anyone could win this thing.

Random thoughts for the Republicans:

– Chris Christie starts out with some eye-popping negatives. 54% either view him “Mostly” or “Very Unfavorably.” I’m not sure where all that’s coming from. Sure, he’s more moderate than the other candidates, but has a dislike of Christie seeped that much into the conservative Iowa psyche? Christie still has a good chance in Iowa, but he’ll really have to thread the needle with moderates and conservatives, and hope the rest of the field breaks just right.

– Rand Paul could have been the talk of the town if he was just a percent or two higher. Right behind Walker at 14%, Paul can’t be too happy starting out there. He has a hard ceiling of support with many of his foreign policy and social issue views simply unpalatable to large wings of the party. He’s another one who needs some luck with other candidates splitting the vote.

– Jeb Bush’s stances on immigration and common core pose problems for his success in the Iowa Caucus. 30% said those policy positions were a “deal-killer” for them. Only 32% said it was “No real problem.” Bush will be a big target at debates for candidates wanting to prove their conservative bonafides by knocking Bush’s beliefs. My guess is Bush will say to hell with that crowd, embrace his convictions, and use it as a way to demonstrate authenticity.

– Just how many Republicans were watching the King event? That seems like an incredible bump for Walker. Again, to the chagrin of national Republicans, Steve King wields an outsized influence on the Republican race.

– Rick Santorum at 4% is rough for the 2012 caucus winner. It’s got to be disheartening to have built up so much good will last time to start at the bottom once again. It probably won’t faze him, though, as he’s already doing what he does best: tirelessly working small town crowds. Still, it makes you wonder if perhaps he peaked at just the right time in 2012.

– John Kasich was thinking of running? He’s in the poll. I honestly can’t keep track of everyone who’s interested, there’s so many.

– Donald Trump only gets 1% in the poll, thus proving the intelligence of Iowa caucus-goers. Or maybe they were mad he fired Iowa’s sweetheart Shawn Johnson from his reality show. But seriously, if this attention-whore schmuck grabs media attention by talking about running, Iowa Starting Line may self-impose a ban on talking about Trump.

 

by Pat Rynard
2/3/2015

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