In this week’s Rasmussen Reports Democratic poll update Sen. Hillary Clinton regained her twenty point lead over Sen. Barack Obama, 42%-22%. This is a three point increase in support for Clinton, and a three point decline for Obama. What is fascinating is that Clinton seems to be being helped by the debates.

I don’t think it really matters how many questions she refuses to answer, or how wishy-washy she seems, after a debate her numbers seem to go up or remain stable. Maybe the debates have less to do with Clinton, and more to do with Obama consistently not meeting expectations at these national gatherings with all the other Democratic candidates.

Clinton has not been below 37% since June 4, while Obama has not been above 25% since July 12. John Edwards remained in a distant third place at 14%. In my opinion, the Edwards campaign’s decision to accept public funding is a reflection of their need for a win in Iowa to turn their momentum around. Edwards has been stuck beween 14%-16% for the past six weeks.

Among the next group of candidates, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich are tied for fourth at 3%. Joe Biden was fifth with 2%. Chris Dodd was sixth at 1%, and Mike Gravel was seventh at less than a percent. Thirteen percent of Democrats were undecided. While the national picture looks strong for Clinton, things aren’t quite as clear in Iowa.

According to a new Newsweek poll released on Saturday, the Democratic race is much closer in Iowa than in the national polls. Overall when Democrats were asked who they prefer in Iowa, Hillary Clinton leads Obama and Edwards 31%-25%-21%. When the same question was asked of likely Democratic caucus goers, Obama leads Clinton and Edwards 28%-24%-22%. Bill Richardson, at 10%, is the only other candidate in double digits in this poll. However, the margin of error in this part of the poll is a fairly high +/- 7%. This means that the race in Iowa is essentially wide open.

Although Clinton is running around the country acting like she is already the Democratic nominee, Iowa remains the one hurdle in her way. If she loses a close race in Iowa, it probably won’t hurt her campaign at all, but if she loses by a large margin like Dean did in 2004, it could cause voters to question her electablility. As Michelle Obama bluntly put it last Wednesday, “Iowa will make the difference. If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, then it’s just a dream.” If Clinton wins in Iowa, she will probably roll to the Democratic nomination. Her rivals still do have a chance to derail her, but it is all going come down to a January winter night in the Hawkeye State.

Rasmussen Reports weekly poll history

Newsweek poll 

Related Rasmussen article 

Jason Easley is the politics editor at His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jason is also the host of TPU Radio, which can be heard at every Sunday morning at 11 AM ET.

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