Just when the poll numbers were getting boring, Rasmussen drops a couple of bombs on both fields. First, it should be noted that Rasmussen has been the most accurate polling firm over the last two cycles. That is not to say that they have a fix on how to poll those elusive "likely caucus goers", but their reputation does deserve a mention here. Their numbers have been a bit different (usually less Clinton/Giuliani friendly) from other firms so far this cycle, largely because they employ a tighter (and more realistic) response screen. For these polls, they employed the tightest screen I've ever seen. No one knows what the right screen is, but I would venture to guess that it's almost impossible to make the screen too tight. No matter what, a poll will miss the huge number of people who will caucus for the first time (especially on the GOP side, since the last caucus was in 2000 and McCain didn't even participate). Knowing that, it seems like firms ought to make their polls as representative of the veteran caucus-goers as possible.
Anyway, to the numbers (Pollster.com averages prior to this poll in parentheses).
On our side, the nightmare is finally here.
Clinton 33% (27)
Edwards 22% (22)
Obama 21% (23)
Richardson 9% (11)
Biden 4% (4)
Rasmussen also released a few interesting crosstabs. Clinton leads among both women and men. Obama scores his highest ratings among those with incomes over $75,000. Clinton does her best with those under $40,000. Edwards does his best in between the two, winning that group 29% to Clinton's 28% (and 21% for Obama). 59% of Clintonites say they are committed to voting for her, as opposed to only 51% and 48% of Edwardsonians and Obamamaniacs, respectively. As I've mentioned before, if Clinton wins in Iowa, she is the nominee (barring a Dean Scream type blow-up, which seems all too unlikely).
The GOP numbers are just as scary (for us).
Romney 25% (28)
Thompson 19% (15)
Huckabee 18% (12)
Giuliani 13% (15)
McCain 6% (7)
Brownback 3% (2)
Tancredo 2% (3)
Paul 2% (4)
Hunter 1% (1)
That's right. Huckabee is no longer knocking on the door of the top tier in Iowa. He's kicked it down and knocked Giuliani unconscious with it. This is largely because he finally leads among Evangelicals (unfortunately they didn't put the numbers up on their non-subscription story). On this side, 57% to 61% of each of the top 4's supporters say that they could still change their votes. As hard as Huckabee is trying not to raise money, I have a hard time seeing him outside the top 3 here and not enjoying the corresponding fundraising surge going into the rest of the earlies. If he wins, he just might lock up the Evangelicals and southern conservatives and run clear to the nomination, or at least earn himself a one-on-one fight with Rudy on Feb. 5th.
Forgive me if another poll comes out that reestablishes the old pattern and makes this poll look like an outlier. It's hard not to get excited when the numbers shift so drastically, especially when the trends all conform to expectations.