Thursday, April 21, 2011

Early Iowa Polls Look Good for Huckabee

Previously on Elephant Watcher: Polls of the early primary states are more important than national polls.

Very little polling has been done in Iowa so far, but numbers are beginning to trickle in. Stay up to date on the polling for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina on the Elephant Watcher Primaries page.

Four different polls have been conducted in Iowa from March to present. Individually, state polls must be taken with a grain of salt, due to their small sample size and often unproven pollsters. Taken together, they can present a reliable picture of how the race stands.

All but one show Huckabee with a commanding lead:

4/19 ARG -- Huckabee 18, Romney 17, Gingrich 12, Trump 10
4/17 PPP (D) -- Huckabee 27, Romney 16, Trump 14, Gingrich 9
4/04 Neighborhood (R) -- Huckabee 21, Romney 14, Trump 9, Gingrich 8
3/11 WeAskAmerica -- Huckabee 20, Palin 14, Gingrich 14, Romney 13

(The April 19 poll showing Huckabee with only a 1 point lead appears to be an oddball "outlier" poll: It also has Giuliani of all people at 8%, with Palin at 4%. Unless we've traveled back in time to 2007, it's hard to accept any poll showing Giuliani with double Palin's numbers in Iowa.)

Note that the poll from March 11 was taken before Trump's (potential) candidacy started making headlines, and the poll from April 4 partly so. Though Trump is likely to receive a bounce in support if/when he announces he is officially in the race, and though he has the potential to transform himself into a serious candidate, April 17 may end up being roughly the height of Trump's campaign. Up to that point, Trump had something like a "media honeymoon" as far as Republican media is concerned. Trump received positive attention for attacking Obama, his history as a non-Republican had not yet come to light, and mud was not yet being slung.

At any rate, if Trump were to pick up steam in Iowa before the inevitable pushback, that was when it would have happened. Yet the April 17 poll shows Huckabee with a wide lead--the largest of any of the polls--and reaching toward 30 points. (In a four or five-man race, polling at 30 almost guarantees victory.)

The April 17 poll has Trump splitting the support of Huckabee's opponents, but not Huckabee. The poll suggests Huckabee may have established a solid constituency, still loyal from his previous win in 2008. If so, and if Huckabee's base is as large as the poll indicates, his opponents will have great difficulty defeating him in Iowa. It's unlikely, for instance, that Romney could do something new that would close the gap. Only an unexpected late entrant (Christie) could threaten Huckabee's support.

Note: Huckabee has not yet even announced an exploratory committee. If/when he does, he will likely receive a bit of a bounce, since there is some doubt among voters whether he is running.

Elephant Watcher will keep a sharp eye on future Iowa polls to determine whether Huckabee's base is as loyal and sizable as the April 17 poll makes it out to be.