There's good political news for George W. Bush, some relatively surprising good news for Al Gore, but a real shock in store for many Beltway big shots -- from Hillary Clinton to Tom Daschle. The "Super Poll" results are in.
Yes, it's still two years away from the early Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, when the Democrats will try to select someone to take on George W. Bush. But you can bet that these next few months will be critical in determining who makes the commitment to run and the issues they will embrace.
Past results suggest that an averaging of the caucus results in Iowa and the primary vote in New Hampshire provides the best overall indicator of who will ultimately win a Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton's 1992 selection being the only recent exception.
Given that information, the "Super Poll" of both Iowa and New Hampshire voters was conducted Feb. 19-26 for InsiderAdvantage.com, the political-governmental news leads Web site, by The Marketing Workshop, a marketing firm that has conducted hundreds of political surveys for candidates and national newspapers.
The "Super Poll" reveals two amazing facts: First, Al Gore, despite having gained pounds, grown a beard, and wandered into the "political desert," has a rock-solid level of support among hard-core Democrats in the first two states that will decide the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
Second, and perhaps an even bigger story, is the emergence of a huge "Bush Democrat" contingent that, at least so far, dwarfs that enjoyed by the man for whom such a term was first invented -- Ronald Reagan.
In a head-to-head ballot test among most likely Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic voters, the "Super Poll" showed Gore with almost 35 percent of the vote. Trailing far behind, in order, were Dick Gephardt, 11 percent; John Kerry, 11 percent; Hillary Clinton, 10 percent; Joe Lieberman, 9 percent; Tom Daschle, 8 percent; and John Edwards, 2 percent.
These results suggest the following. For Gore, it is clear that a huge number of Democrats want to see him get his "rematch" in the race that they presumably believe he should have won. The better-known Democrats, such as Gephardt, Daschle and Lieberman, must consider the possibility that a presidential bid against Gore would be successful only if a great amount of blood were to be spilled through a divisive, negative campaign.
Hillary Clinton, who arguably enjoys the highest name identification of all of the Democrats placed on the survey, shocked the experts. Usually high name ID is a big plus in any poll. And being the only female in a male-dominated poll almost always guarantees strong results. No such case for Sen. Clinton -- who despite both advantages, barely scratches. The Democratic nomination seems to be Gore's if he starts his efforts before a newcomer, such as Sen. Edwards of North Carolina, pulls a Jimmy Carter and creates early grass-roots support, then an increase in name identification. Whoever takes Gore on should know that neither terrorism, nor education, nor health care is a major concern among these Democrats.
Once again, "It's the economy, stupid." But with a difference this time: While in the "Super Poll" the overall concern about the economy outpolled other issues three-to-one, the most likely related concerns of Enron, unemployment and Social Security were hardly mentioned by the respondents.
Even if Gore should run for and win his party's nomination, the "Super Poll" suggests an unprecedented tidal wave of hard-core Democratic support for President Bush. When asked "How likely are you to not vote for a Democrat in 2004 and re-elect George W. Bush as president?" at least 15 percent of the respondents said "very likely," with another 21 percent saying they were "somewhat likely." These are truly amazing numbers given the fact that those responding are proven Democrats. What makes these numbers even more amazing is the fact that so few of the Democrats who responded considered safety and the current war on terrorism to be a significant issue. In other words, President Bush has gone beyond being a "wartime wonder." The poll even indicates that there exists little if any gender gap between those who would cross party lines to support Bush. His re-election seems to hinge on his ability to keep the economy at least as strong as it is in the winter of 2002.
There is one bit of bad news for the GOP in the "Super Poll." It appears that Bush's popularity has not yet transferred to other Republicans. Democrats were leading both Senate contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
For those who would question the accuracy of a combined "Super Poll," consider the fact that none of the major results of the "Super Poll" (which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent), varied significantly from Iowa or New Hampshire (which had individual plus or minus margins of error of 6 percent).
For those who would question the value of polling these two critical states two years prior to a caucus that will reflect its party's hard core, and the first primary that will do the same, the answer is simple. Just ask Al Gore and George W. Bush.
Matt Towery writes a syndicated column based out of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He can be reached at www.InsiderAdvantage.com.
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