Democrat John Kerry, riding a wave of momentum from his Iowa caucus victory, grabbed a three-point lead over Howard Dean in New Hampshire five days before the state’s presidential primary, according to a Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released Thursday.
Kerry, a Massachusetts senator whose come-from-behind win in Iowa reshaped the Democratic presidential race, led Dean 27 percent to 24 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, which began the day of Iowa’s caucuses.
Kerry stretched his lead over Dean, who limped to a distant third-place finish in Iowa, to 11 points in the most recent day of polling Wednesday.
“Kerry not only jumps into the lead, but today his lead was commanding,” pollster John Zogby said. “Remember, we still have one-third of the sample taken before the Iowa caucus.”
A tracking poll combines the results of three consecutive nights of polling, then drops the first night’s results each time a new night is added. It allows pollsters to record shifts in voter sentiment as they happen.
Changing their minds
The poll found voters were still changing their minds about Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire, with Kerry gaining four percentage points and Dean dropping one percentage point. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, in third place, continued to slip slightly each day, dropping one percentage point to 15 percent.
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, fresh from his surprise second place finish in Iowa, held fourth place with 8 percent, a gain of one point. Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman was at 7 percent, down one point.
Zogby said Edwards did not seem to have gotten a big bounce from Iowa yet, although “it normally takes two full days before we see a major impact from any event.”
A total of 17 percent of New Hampshire voters are still undecided about the primary, up one percentage point.
Zogby said Dean’s fevered, arm-pumping speech after the caucuses on Monday “had no negative impact on young voters at all in New Hampshire,” although Kerry had moved even with or ahead of Dean among most other voter categories.
The switch at the top represents a dramatic turnaround for both Kerry and Dean. The former Vermont governor soared to a more than 20-point lead in New Hampshire polls late last year, but Kerry roared back in Iowa’s final two weeks as voters began to re-evaluate which Democrat was best suited to challenge President Bush in November.
The poll of 601 likely primary voters was taken Monday through Wednesday and has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. It will continue through Tuesday, the day of the New Hampshire primary.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich received 1 percent in the poll, with civil rights activist Al Sharpton getting less than 1 percent.