26 February 2007


I like to whine about February being the longest month, even though it has the fewest days. But that has mostly to do with the weather and the dearth of sports I'm interested in.

This year February has been a downer for John Edwards due to poll results, not thermometer readings.

Three key events seem to be behind Edwards' noticeable slump in the polls.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton officially announced their presidential aspirations early this month. Neither announcement was a surprise, but candidates with a real shot tend to get a nice bounce from their announcement, much like the bounce a candidate will get after their party's nominating convention. Or the one most presidents get for at least a week or two after their State of the Union address. The current president being a notable exception.

The third event was Edwards' own doing - his announcement of plans for universal health care. Everybody wants it until the minor detail of paying for it is raised. Showing political courage, Edwards announced his plan on February 4, and with it warned voters that it would mean an increase in taxes to pay for it.

Since then, except in Iowa, Edwards' has found himself playing third fiddle in the polls, often registering in the low teens while Clinton polls near 40 and Obama about 20 in the typical poll.

It's impossible to say just how much the new-tax pledge has hurt Edwards, but it's clear that it, and the hoopla surrounding the annnouncements of Clinton and Obama, have taken a toll.

There are two new polls out today showing Edwards' February slide continuing.

A weekly Rasmussen poll has Edwards at 13%. While his numbers have remained reasonably steady this month in this poll, the space between he and Clinton (37%) and Obama (26%) has become wider. As an example, two weeks ago Edwards trailed the frontrunning Clinton by 15 points in the Rasmussen poll, but is now down by 24 points.

In today's Zogby poll, Clinton picked up 4 points from last month and is at 33%, while Obama made large strides in the past month and is nipping at Hillary's heels at 25%. Edwards lags at 12%.

A Cook Political Report poll last week put Edwards at 16%, some 26 points behind Clinton, though only four behind Obama.

Meanwhile, a WNBC/Marist Poll from one week ago today put Edwards at just 11%, tied for third with Oscar winner Al Gore and 26 points behind Clinton, the poll's leader.

In other February polls, by Quinnipiac, Siena and USA Today, Edwards finished fourth behind Clinton, Obama and Gore. That includes a 6% showing in the Quinnipiac poll. You can see these three polls here.

While all that is bad news for Edwards, perhaps the scariest poll for the North Carolinian was released over the weekend by Elon College. It's a poll of five southeastern states - Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Edwards finished a distant third in four of the five states, and second in his home state, 19 points behind Clinton. Not only does Edwards finish third in the other four states in his home region, he puts up dismal numbers - like 4% in Virginia and 6% in South Carolina and Georgia. Click here for poll data.


While February has been a bit of a downer for Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is seeing some positive movement in his numbers.

Prior to this month Richardson was polling at 1% in most national polls. Early in February, in the polls by Siena, Marist and Quinnipiac, Richardson put up his first crooked number (as the baseball announcers like to say) at 2%. But as the month progressed, Richardson has boosted those numbers to the mid-single-digits -- posting at 4% in the Rasmussen and USA Today polls and 5% in the Cook poll and today's Zogby poll.

Those numbers and two bucks will get you a ride on a New York City subway, but at least Richardson is showing some positive momentum and has put a little daylight betweeen himself and the rest of the second tier.

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