From the Post Politics Hour
Every weekday at 11 a.m., members of the Washington Post post political team take your questions about the 2008 campaign. Today's installment featured Dan Balz on the importance of early polls, political dynasties in America and much more. Here are a few highlights.
Ames, Iowa: What is your take on this politics of inevitability that seems to be predominant view of Hillary Clinton? I recently did some canvassing among Iowa voters and discovered the VAST MAJORITY were completely undecided or were torn between two (or three candidates.)
I think these early polls are getting way too much credence.
Dan Balz: This is a very good question and a very good point. I was in Iowa for the Harkin Steak Fry and it seemed clear that most of the Democratic voters in the state are not firmly committed. They rarely are at this point. Certainly some have fixed views on who they'll support and a lot of them may have an idea of where they'll end up. But Iowa voters in particular don't like to lock themselves in until shortly before the caucuses. It's inevitable that Senator Clinton and her campaign would try to make her nomination appear inevitable. She's certainly the front-runner. But much can happen before she or anyone can lock up the Democratic nomination.
Chicago: Thanks for taking questions. I read the article in the Post about Obama's financial backers looking for some movement in the polls to justify their investment. Are the national polls really relevant or should we just be looking at Iowa and NH polls (where I understand the top three are a lot closer)? What thing or things can Obama do to get some movement in the polls? What's he spending all that money on?
Dan Balz: National polls are of some value; good state polls will be more important the closer we get to January 2008. Right now the national polls and the state polls tell us some of the same things. Senator Clinton has a big lead in the national polls and a pretty solid lead in state polls other than Iowa. The polls also tell us that she has a constituency that is weighted more heavily toward women and older voters, while Obama has what might be called the elites -- wealthier, better educated Democrats. In the past, the kind of coalition Clinton is putting together has proven more potent than the coalition around Senator Obama. There's no magic formula for moving the polls. Sometimes a heavy dose of advertising can help, but only if your opponent is not doing the same. An external event can change the dynamic -- scandal, a terrorist attack, a major gaffe by one of the candidates -- but no candidate can plan for that. A skillfully executed attack can change the numbers as well. As for money, Obama will be spending his millions on a robust field organization in Iowa and other states and on an advertising and direct mail blitz.
Yorktown, Va.: We're facing the prospect of nearly 30 years of control of the White House by just two families, and not two of our better families. Will future generations look back at us and say, "What the hell were you thinking?"
We all know the Democrats will win the White House. Is it too late for a better candidate to emerge? Or is the Hillary coronation all we have to look forward to?
Dan Balz: That would be a long, long stretch and if Senator Clinton is the nominee I would expect that issue to become more important. You may be certain Democrats will win the White House but if that's so, why don't the general election match-ups in the polls look more lopsided? Is is too late for a better candidate to emerge? What is wrong with the current field -- or perhaps I should ask, who would you like to see in the race. That's for another time to discuss.
September 24, 2007; 12:20 PM ET
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