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updated 7/25/2007 8:11:46 PM ET 2007-07-26T00:11:46
ANALYSIS

Monday's release marked the fourth consecutive ABC News/Washington Post poll [PDF] that found Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., with a lead of 15 or 16 points over Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Democratic presidential nomination matchups featuring all of the active candidates.

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The latest poll, conducted last Wednesday through Saturday among 606 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, showed Clinton with 45 percent of the vote, Obama with 30 percent, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 12 percent, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson with 3 percent and others with 2 percent or less.

Sixty-eight percent of Clinton voters said they strongly supported their candidate, versus 56 percent of Obama backers. In the February ABC/Post polling, Obama supporters were 4 points more intensively supportive of their candidate than Clinton backers, but in the three successive polls, Clinton's support grew more intense. What started as an edge of 8 points in April was 10 points in June and 12 points in the new poll.

When asked who had the best chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the general election, Clinton beat out Obama again, 43 percent to 27 percent.

Finally, when asked if they were satisfied with the choice of candidates running for the Democratic nomination, 83 percent said they were, while just 16 percent said they were not.

In Pollster.com's moving average of all major national polls, Clinton's lead is a bit narrower, at 12.8 points, but has widened over the last three months.

In Pollster.com's Iowa averages, Edwards leads with 27.8 percent to Clinton's 23.8 percent, with both gradually moving up. Obama is at 17.1 percent, but has been dropping over the last two months.

In the New Hampshire averages, support for Clinton, averaging 34 percent, and Obama, at 22.7 percent, is growing.

Obama's numbers are growing faster -- and appear to be coming from a rather precipitous decline by Edwards in the Granite State -- but the Illinois senator still has a lot of ground to cover.

The point of all of this is to note that while Obama is slightly ahead of Clinton in the fundraising side of the race, he does not have the momentum that he had back in the first three months of this year.

Indeed, nationally and in Iowa, Obama is losing ground, not gaining it. One has to wonder when Obama's backers will start leaning on him and his campaign organization, the way anxious investors pressure a company's CEO to improve earnings and stock price.

Former Massachusetts GOP Gov. Mitt Romney has shown how a combination of strong organizational efforts and television advertising in early primary states can jumpstart a little-known candidate.

Romney's numbers among Republicans are rocketing in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Likewise, Richardson has shown how just a healthy dose of media with a little organization can send numbers shooting up in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But with significantly greater resources than either Romney or Richardson, Obama has not replicated their early-state success.

There was that initial burst of momentum created after he announced his candidacy, but since then things have been relatively flat. This isn't to say Obama's situation can't be turned around.

After all, in the last presidential campaign cycle, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was running low on money late in 2003. But he mortgaged his house, then capitalized on late reservations about front-runner Howard Dean to grab the nomination.

As long as he has money, there is a way out, but there would appear to be a recipe problem with the Obama campaign: They haven't figured out where Democratic taste buds are this year.

Conversely, while the Clinton campaign has lacked the cache and pizzazz of the Obama effort, it has cruised along with Prussian efficiency, methodically plodding along, making no major mistakes.

Clinton has gradually and increasingly become more acceptable, wearing down the resistance in the party and, with general election polls now generally showing her even or mostly ahead, they are breaking through outside the party as well.

At some point, we should assume that Clinton or her campaign will stumble; every candidate and campaign eventually does at least once or twice. But, when it happens, will anyone else be in striking distance, and thus able to capitalize?

It's also worth noting that in Iowa and New Hampshire, Richardson's numbers have been moving. Perhaps it is Astroturf rather than true grassroots, but the upward pattern in the polls in those states -- but not nationally -- should be noticed.

Somebody usually makes a run from behind, and it might well be the New Mexican, if his early-state numbers are any indication.

There is still six months before balloting begins, but this race has begun to take shape.

For some, of course, that shape is a lot better and more promising than for others. As far as Clinton is concerned, she couldn't ask for things to be working out much better. For Obama, something needs to happen.

And for Richardson, one crucial question must be answered: Is this real?

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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