A new poll out of Iowa Monday shows Clinton ahead of Obama. Another poll released Sunday showed Obama over Clinton.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An AP poll released Monday seems to show Hillary Clinton on top of the Democratic primary field in three critical early-voting states.
The survey, which comes less than two days after a similar Des Moines Register poll showed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama leading the pack in that state by a similar slim margin, highlights the fluid nature of the race in Iowa.
The poll finds the New York senator drawing strong support from crucial Democratic constituencies like women and older voters, who tend to turn out in greater numbers on Election Day than other voters.
Meanwhile, Obama's biggest support - particularly in Iowa - comes from younger and better-educated voters, liberals and Democratic-leaning independents. John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who is fighting for a share of the lead in Iowa, has yet to lay claim to any major primary voting bloc.
In Iowa, Clinton is essentially tied with Obama, 31 percent to 26 percent, with Edwards at 19 percent and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at 10 percent. Clinton leads Obama by a larger margin in New Hampshire, 38 to 19 percent, with Edwards at 15 percent and Richardson at 10 percent. In South Carolina, Clinton appears to dominate the field with 45 percent of the vote. Obama is preferred by 31 percent and Edwards10 percent.
But the AP poll also appears to reveal some potential landmines for the New York senator.
While Democrats in all three states overwhelmingly call Clinton the Democrat with the best chance of winning the White House, that honor doesn't carry the weight it did four years ago, when it Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, used it capture the party’s nomination. Fewer than one in four say they would prefer an electable candidate to one with whom they agree on the issues - more than 10 percentage points fewer than last cycle in Iowa and New Hampshire.
More troubling for Clinton, both Obama and Edwards have more support than the New York senator as a second choice in the Hawkeye State – a distinction that could be vital on caucus night when candidates with weak support are eliminated in early voting. In addition, 18 percent of Iowa Democrats entirely rule out voting for her. The only other candidate who approaches that figure is Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, at 12 percent.
Even the best numbers for Hillary may not quite as positive as they appear. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland pointed out that the length of the survey – it was conducted over more than two weeks, from November 7 through 25 – means that impact of Obama’s surge in recent weeks may not be reflected, since those results have been combined with interviews from earlier in the month. “Does this poll reflect how Iowans feel today? Maybe not,” said Holland.
The telephone surveys in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina had margins of error of plus or minus 5.5, 5 and 6 percentage points respectively.