John Edwards has leapfrogged over his rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and leads the Democratic field in Iowa, according to the latest InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion poll. In the Republican caucus race, Mike Huckabee continues to hold a narrow lead over Mitt Romney.
The race among the three top Democrats is extremely close, with the potential for any of them to finish first – or third.
Edwards leads with 30 percent in a poll of Democratic voters who said they intend to participate in the Jan. 3 presidential caucuses, followed by Clinton with 26 percent and Obama with 24 percent. When the sample was narrowed to the most likely caucus-goers, based on several questions, Obama leads Edwards by less than a percentage point with 27 percent, with Clinton in third place at 24 percent.
Edwards holds a significant advantage, however, among a group who could be key to the first contest of the presidential year: those who say their first choice is someone other than the top three. Under Iowa Democratic Party rules, candidates who poll less than 15 percent in the first vote at each caucus around the state are eliminated, and their supporters get a second chance to vote for another candidate.
Under both screens, Edwards leads as the second choice of these voters, with Clinton trailing Obama.
“If Edwards is the second choice at this stage of those who intend to vote for other Democrats, then it would not be surprising if he produced a bit of a shock in Iowa,” said InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery.
Towery said the firm employed the same methodology with regard to asking the second choice of those who were voting for candidates other than those in the top tier, and obtained an accurate picture of John Kerry’s lead.
The poll of 977 Democrats who said they will go to the caucuses, conducted Sunday and Monday has a error margin of plus-or-minus 3 percent. The tighter screen of 633 voters has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percent.
The Republican race is a duel between Huckabee, with 28 percent in this poll, and Romney, with 25 percent.
Rudy Giuliani, who has led most national polls of the Republican candidates, garnered only is in 6th place in this poll, behind Fred Thompson, with 10 percent, John McCain, with 9 percent, and Ron Paul, with 6 percent, in addition to the two frontrunners.
In the tighter voter screen, the frontrunners change places: Romney leads with 28 percent, to Huckabee’s 25 percent.
The poll of 835 Republican voters who said they intend to go to the caucuses has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percent. The tigher screen of 418 voters has an error margin of plus-or-minus 5 percent. Both the Democratic and Republican polls were weighted for age and gender.