COMMENTS: Horse Race Polls

It was another heavy day of Campaign 2008 coverage (19 min or 33% of the three-network newshole). At the start of the primary season--with all eyes on Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina--national opinion polls are irrelevant. Yet ABC News published one anyway, just as CBS News did yesterday. This is how they match up among the Democrats: Hillary Rodham Clinton leads (ABC 53%, CBS 44%) followed by Barack Obama (ABC 23%, CBS 27%) and John Edwards (ABC 10%, CBS 11%). On the Republican side the rankings are tighter: Rudolph Giuliani (ABC 25%, CBS 22%) ahead of Mike Huckabee (ABC 19%, CBS 21%) and Mitt Romney (ABC 17%, CBS 16%). So the only material difference between the polls concerns the extent of Rodham Clinton's lead.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos found a couple of points of interest. First, that Giuliani is losing support among conservatives and those who are "watching the race very closely." Second, the weakening economy has supplanted the Iraq War as the most important issue for voters.

The other networks offered a pair of candidate profiles. CBS' Jeff Greenfield looked at Edwards, who had a "strong second place showing" in Iowa in 2004. Greenfield speculated that a win this time around "turns a two-way fight" between Rodham Clinton and Obama "into a three-way fight everywhere." Edwards' pitch consists of his southern roots--matching the last two Democrats to be elected President--his working class background, and his populist attack on corporate power. His pitch in Iowa is that "change requires a fighter and not Obama's intention to be a healer."

On NBC, Lisa Myers took a sardonic In Depth look at Huckabees penchant for receiving gifts while he was Governor of Arkansas: guitars, jewelry, vacations, clothes, free dental care, free dry cleaning--even "50% off hamburgers at Wendy's." All the gifts were legal, Myers reassured us, but some were tacky: "As the Huckabees moved out of the Governor's Mansion they signed up on the wedding registry…at Target identifying gifts they would like for their new home." An uproar caused that idea to be scrapped.


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