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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/ 4/2008

Hillary the Underdog?

By Michael Dobbs

Winding up her Iowa campaign, Jan. 2, 2008.

"I think because it's so close, you know, when I started here I was in single digits. I mean nobody expected me to be doing as well as I'm doing in Iowa." --Hillary Clinton, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Dec. 30, 2007.

With defeat looming in Iowa, Hillary Clinton did her best to transform herself in the eyes of the public from a potentially humiliated front-runner to a scrappy underdog. Managing expectations was the name of the game in Iowa as caucus goers kicked off the 2008 presidential voting season. If you did better than expected, you could claim to have won. But it is simply not true that Clinton started her campaigning in Iowa in "single digits" in the opinion polls.

The Facts

Hillary Clinton paid her first visit to Iowa in more than three years on January 27, 2007, so that date can be used as the official start of her campaign. The first poll taken after that visit by the polling group ARG reported that she had the support of 35 per cent of Iowa voters at that time, against 18 percent for John Edwards and 14 percent for Barack Obama. A Zogby poll a week later put Clinton and Edwards at 24 percent each, and Obama at 14 percent.

Subsequent polls put Edwards ahead of Clinton. According to data collected by, Edwards remained in the overall lead until September when he was overtaken by Clinton. The three top Democratic candidates were closely grouped together for the last four months of the campaign.

The Clinton campaign has been unable to produce any poll that reported "single digits" support for their candidate in Iowa. The poll that came closest was a Research 2000 poll back in December 2006, which reported 10 per cent support for Clinton.

The myth that Clinton started out with the polls stacked against her in Iowa has been picked up by her aides over the last few days. Her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe told Fox News on Tuesday that Clinton started off "in single digits, 20, 25 points behind John Edwards who had been here for 6 years campaigning." The data shows that Clinton never trailed Edwards by those kinds of margins.

The Pinocchio Test

It is understandable why Clinton should have tried to depict herself as the underdog in Iowa during the closing stages of the campaign. But it is not true.

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By Michael Dobbs  | January 4, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Candidate Watch  
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