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Figuring Out the Impact of Iowa

Frank Newport

The key analytic question at this point becomes one of figuring out what the impact of Iowa caucus results will be on New Hampshire voters, and more broadly, on voters across the nation. Managing Editor of our staff, Jeff Jones, has reviewed data from previous elections showing that , in some instances, these early caucuses and primaries make a big difference -- and in other instances, they don't.

So history isn't much help at this point.

A few weeks ago, we did ask Democrats nationally what they thought would be the implications if Hillary lost the early votes and if Obama won. In contradictory fashion, Democrats said they didn't think losing would be fatal for Hillary, but they did think winning would provide a big boost for Obama.

So not a lot of help there either.

Our last poll in New Hampshire shows that Obama and Clinton are essentially tied. We will be polling in New Hampshire this weekend and will know more by Monday. Everything else being equal, one would assume that Obama would enjoy a bump in New Hampshire because of the publicity coming out of Iowa.

We have some preliminary national numbers from Wednesday night that suggest Clinton was still in the lead -- albeit by a diminished spread -- before Iowa. Thursday night her national lead was down a little more. By Monday we will know more precisely what the impact of her standing among Democrats is nationally. Again, everything else being equal, one would predict that Clinton will drop more by Monday in the national numbers.

Our preliminary national numbers Wednesday and Thursday night show that the GOP race is muddled nationally -- with Huckabee, Giuliani, McCain, and Romney all within shouting distance of one another. One would expect that our weekend national polling could show Huckabee gaining nationally, but we'll see.

Our December New Hampshire polls showed Huckabee down significantly below McCain and Romney. The weekend polling in New Hampshire could show him gaining some.

But . . .

My analysis of our Gallup polling conducted nationally since July suggests that Huckabee depends to a great degree on the support of highly religious Republicans. An analysis of available "entrance" poll data from Iowa last night confirms the degree to which Huckabee was dependent on religious Republicans. In fact, he received only 14% of the vote of the 40% of Iowa Republicans who say they were not "born again" or "evangelical" Christians. There will not be as many religious Republicans voting in New Hampshire as there were in Iowa.

So the extent of Huckabee's "bump" in New Hampshire over the weekend is an open question to be resolved by Monday.

Stay tuned.

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