I know lots of readers here don’t like John Zogby because of his politics — but he’s a better than average pollster. And while I don’t normally put much stock in polls, tracking polls are more reliable. Here are Zogby’s numbers for December, from Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina:
What’s interesting is, Howard Dean doesn’t look nearly as invincible as he’s been portrayed. He and Dick Gephardt are in a statistical dead heat in Iowa, when you take into account the margin of error. And nobody is leading in South Carolina. (What I’d really like to see is a good, monthlong tracking poll for every Super Tuesday state — I’m betting the South has yet to coalesce around any candidate.)
And then there’s New Hampshire, where Dean has a 30-point lead (give or take) ahead of John Kerry, his closest competitor. But be wary of polls from the Granite State. Voters there don’t like to be told what to do, not even by their own selves.
So while we don’t yet know who the anti-Dean candidate is, we do know it will probably be either Wes Clark or Dick Gephardt.
If Clark catches on in the South via the South Carolina primary, then we could see a head-on battle between the Clinton (Clark) and Gore (Dean) factions come Super Tuesday.
Then again, if Gephardt manages to eke out a win in Iowa, then anyone-but-Dean voters might decide he’s their guy. And his (admittedly soft) pro-war stance could make him palatable to southern voters, and — unlike Clark — his Democratic Party credentials are immaculate.
Not only is this primary race not over, it’s hardly even begun.