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Kerry holds lead but race may be tightening

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry holds a nine-point lead over Howard Dean in New Hampshire but the race appears to be tightening, according to a Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released on Saturday.
/ Source: Reuters

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry holds a nine-point lead over Howard Dean in New Hampshire but the race appears to be tightening, according to a Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released on Saturday.

Kerry led Dean 31 percent to 22 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, but the last day of polling showed Kerry with a much smaller margin over Dean while John Edwards and Joseph Lieberman both gained ground on the leaders.

“Kerry’s lead is now nine points over three days, however he led only by 26 percent-22 percent over Dean in Friday polling alone, while Edwards and Lieberman each hit 10 percent,” pollster John Zogby said.

“Dean’s showing on Friday may suggest that he has bottomed out and may in fact be starting to increase,” Zogby said. “Another day like this and Dean may be in striking distance again.”

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.

Iowa caucuses turn race upside down
The Democratic race in New Hampshire has been turned upside down by the results of Monday’s Iowa caucuses, where Kerry rolled to a big win and one-time front-runner Dean collapsed to third place in the battle to find a candidate to challenge President George W. Bush.

Dean’s much-lampooned Iowa concession speech appeared to damage his candidacy as Kerry stretched his lead in polls, but the former Vermont governor made light of it on Thursday and appeared on national television with his wife, Judy, in an interview designed to soften his image.

Dean, who held a more than 20-point lead over Kerry in New Hampshire in December, suggested on Friday that his campaign had “turned a corner” and was coming back up.

“We know New Hampshire always likes to change what Iowa does,” Dean told campaign volunteers in Keene, New Hampshire. “The question is how hard everyone is willing to work to get to where we were before.”

Clark in third place, Edwards fourth
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, in third place, held steady at 14 percent. Edwards, a North Carolina senator, and Lieberman, a Connecticut senator, each gained one percentage point to 8 and 7 percent, respectively, over the course of the three days of polling.

The number of undecided voters dropped from 17 percent to 13 percent three days before the primary, the poll found.

Zogby said Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, held leads among most sub-groups in the poll. That included double-digit advantages with independents, who form the state’s largest voting bloc and can vote in either party’s primary.

The poll of 601 likely primary voters was taken Wednesday through Friday 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 2 percent in the poll, with civil rights activist Al Sharpton getting 1 percent.