The sense that New York Senator Hillary Clinton presidential campaign is going from strength to strength grew Sunday as a new Des Moines Register poll showed her moving into the lead in the first caucus state of Iowa. And Clinton’s position there got a boost over the weekend as Iowa Democrats who still doubt her anti-war credentials were reassured by none other than 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.
McGovern, an anti-Vietnam War icon who has been a far more consistent foe of the Iraq War than Clinton, heartily endorsed the 2008 Democratic front runner on a day when the Register poll suggested that the New York senator might actually win the caucuses that are expected to define the course of the race for the Democratic nod.
McGovern does not cut Clinton a lot of slack for her 2002 vote to authorize Bush to attack Iraq. The former senator bluntly declares that it was “a mistake to support that war at any time.”
But McGovern argues that there are few “mistake-free” candidates and says that Clintonhas moved toward what he sees as a “pretty good” position on the war. “She knows that’s its gotta be ended,” the former senator says. “She said if by any chance Bush were to continue the war that after 2008 she’d terminate it. That’s about all you can expect.”
This is a debatable point. But it is fair to say that the willingness of liberals such as McGovern to make their peace with Clinton is reflected in her improving position in Iowa and elsewhere.
According to the Register poll of Iowans who are likely to participate in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Clinton is now at 29 percent. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who has made little secret of the fact that he must secure a first-place finish in Iowa to continue as a serious contender, was at 23 percent. Most of Clinton’s gain in the survey appeared to be the expense of Edwards, who fell 6 points from his position in May poll for the Register.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who runs closest to Clinton in national polls, was at 22 percent in Iowa. Rounding out the field in the Hawkeye state were New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at 8 percent and Delaware Senator Joe Biden at 5 percent, with Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel all at 1 percent or less.
The Register poll has long been the most respected in Iowa. More consistently correct in its assessments than most, in large part because it is constructed to measure signals of strength in the complex caucus process, the survey offered Clinton a good measure of encouragement.
Clinton now leads by a comfortable margin among likely caucusgoers aged 55 and older, who historically have been the steadiest presence at the state’s caucuses. She also leads among likely caucusgoers in union households, displacing Edwards as the favorite pick of labor-linked voters.