As the Democratic presidential contenders struggle for victories in seven states that hold primaries and caucuses next Tuesday, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry holds substantial leads in the two states that have the largest number of delegates at stake, Missouri and Arizona, according to a new MSNBC/Reuters Zogby tracking poll released Friday morning.
With a total of 269 delegates to be selected Tuesday, Arizona and Missouri have a combined 129.
In Missouri, Kerry garners the support of 45 percent of likely primary voters, while his next-closest rival, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, has only 11 percent, according to the Zogby survey.
In Arizona, Kerry has taken a commanding lead with 38 percent, followed by retired Gen. Wesley Clark with 17 percent and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean with 12 percent.
A tie in South Carolina
In South Carolina, Zogby found that Edwards is in a statistical tie with Kerry at 25 percent to 24 percent, with the full effect of Kerry’s endorsement by Rep. James Clyburn, the state’s most influential black leader, yet to be felt.
Edwards has said flatly he must win the South Carolina primary.
In Oklahoma, Clark leads all of his rivals with 27 percent, followed by Kerry at 19 percent. Edwards places third at 17 percent.
Zogby International conducted telephone interviews of a random sampling of approximately 600 likely primary voters in each state from Tuesday through Thursday. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Only three weeks ago, pundits and strategists considered Dean the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But since his lackluster third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19 and his second-place finish in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Dean’s campaign has struggled to regain its footing.
The most striking finding of Zogby’s survey of the four primary states, Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, is that Dean holds the lead in none of them, and in fact the best he can place is 12 percent in Arizona.
Dean’s campaign faces a credibility crisis, since it said it would turn out millions of new voters for Dean.
New Mexico’s primary would seem to be Dean’s best chance next Tuesday because he has had campaign staff on the ground there since the beginning of September.
Dean strategist Steve McMahon cautioned a few hours before the votes were counted in New Hampshire Tuesday night that “it would be a mistake to obsess on the Feb. 3 contests.”
But if Dean does not manage to win any of the seven contests on Tuesday, he will face tremendous pressure to drop out of the race.
Money problems for Dean
The Associated Press reported Friday that Dean’s campaign fund has dwindled from $41 million to around $5 million.
A source directly familiar with Dean's finances, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dean had about $5 million on hand after all bills were paid. A second source, a senior campaign official, confirmed that Dean's cash on hand had fallen to seven figures.
Dean, whose Internet-fueled fund raising last year was a Democratic record, is now withholding staff salaries and has decided against airing ads in any of the seven states voting next Tuesday.