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January 18, 2004

WHY I DON'T TRUST POLLS: This Des Moines Register poll shows Wesley Clark trailing Dennis Kucinich, with 2% vs. 3% respectively.

Now I know that Iowa is to the left of the nation generally, and that Iowa caucus voters are to the left of Iowa. I also know that Clark's campaign hasn't been terribly impressive. (Though the blog is pretty good.) But still -- two percent? And behind Dennis Kucinich? I find that very hard to believe.

But I could be wrong -- my political-prediction track record isn't especially impressive.

UPDATE: Iowa reader Joe Kristan emails:

While your point about the reliability of polls is a good one - especially with our caucus system - I don't think they are too far off with respect to Clark. Why? He's not here. Kucinich has been here for months, and Clark, with no effort or organization at all here, is lost in the candidate ad blizzard. It's also hard to say he's offered anything that isn't available from the candidate's who aren't blowing Iowa off, so there probably isn't a group of disaffected Democrats who would go to him anyway by default.

Yeah, but two percent? (On the other hand, Kevin Drum emails: "Clark isn't running in Iowa. Heck, I'm surprised he's getting 2%....") It just seems to me that anyone who's being talked about as a serious national candidate should do better than that. But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Meanwhile, Michael Peckham emails:

I agree that the poll you mention is probably bogus, but Kucinich does have a small ace up his sleeve in Iowa -- The Transcendental Meditation crowd who
live in Fairfield:

Even as much of the country still struggles to pronounce his name (it's koo-SIN-itch), Mr. Kucinich has become a phenomenon in Fairfield, population 9,500. His proposals to promote world peace, universal health care and environmental sustainability arguably resonate here as in no other place in America.

Hmm. Okay. (There's more here.) And reader Andrew Boucher says that the poll's probably right and that Iowans are mad at Clark for snubbing them: "Regardless of whether or not they might support him, they'd never stand at caucus for someone who is snubbing his nose at the system." This may make the polls look a bit less bogus -- but doesn't it also make the whole Iowa caucus process look a bit more bogus?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has lengthier and, no doubt, better informed comments on Iowa.