Video: Analyzing the close race

By MSNBC Politics Editor
updated 1/26/2004 10:17:30 AM ET 2004-01-26T15:17:30

Howard Dean is riding a rollercoaster in the New Hampshire polls.

As quickly as he sank in the surveys following his dismal third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Dean is rising again — so dramatically, in fact, that he is in a statistical dead heat with Sen. John Kerry in the latest MSNBC/Zogby Reuters Poll released Monday.

The three-day rolling average has Kerry with 28 percent to Dean’s 25 percent in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, cutting four points from Kerry's Sunday lead. Factoring in the poll's four-point margin of error places the Massachusetts senator and the former Vermont governor in a statistical tie.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark is in third place with 11 percent, followed by North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 10 percent. Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman polled at 9 percent.

“Dean had another good polling day," pollster John Zogby said, "and has picked up support among groups he once led.  His strength among 18- to 29-year-olds looks solid.  Will they vote?"

The latest numbers are a welcome reversal of fortune for Dean, who held a 30-point lead over Kerry in New Hampshire in December, only to see Kerry leapfrog past him by double digits after winning the Iowa caucuses one week ago while Sen. John Edwards placed a strong second.

Ridiculed over speech
Dean, ridiculed by comedians and political pundits for his Iowa concession "screech," went to great lengths to make political hay from the incident himself, showing that he could laugh with his critics about it and even appearing on "The Late Show With David Letterman" in a related "Top 10" list gag.

The one-time Democratic front-runner also sat for a television interview with his wife, Judy, who then joined him in her first appearances on the campaign trail.

From inside the Dean campaign, MSNBC's Felix Schein reported Sunday: "The energy has returned, the candidate has stuck to the script and a massive ground organization is now in full swing, all three combining to generate a positive buzz and the momentum the campaign so desperately needed following its stunning Iowa loss."

Slideshow: Voices of New Hampshire Interestingly, Schein reports, "the Iowa scream itself may be playing a part in the rebound" in the polls. "For Deanics around the Granite State, the footage of Dean’s explosion has served as a rallying cry, producing signs like the ones in Plymouth reading, 'Four more years of Bush and we’ll all be screaming' or 'Scream for Dean.'

"Not only has the rant assumed a cult status but it has also plastered Dean’s face all over America’s television screens leading some to resort to the old line that any publicity is good publicity."

Kerry doing well
Still, Zogby noted, Kerry is doing well. He "leads in three out of four regions, in the first Congressional District, among independents, all voters over 30 years of age, union members, moderates, married voters, men and women.  He and Dean battle over college educated voters." Independents, who make up more than a third of New Hampshires voters but can vote in Tuesday's Democratic contest, are seen as a potential pivotal force in the outcome.

Also, Zogby noted, "Dean has improved his favorable rating, while Kerry's unfavorable rating has crept up." 

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