clinton iowa 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken the lead among Democratic presidential candidates in an Iowa poll, an encouraging sign of progress toward overcoming a big hurdle in the race.
Although the New York senator is the clear front-runner in national surveys, Iowa has remained an elusive prize. She has been in a tight race with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the state that begins the primary campaign voting in three months.
The Iowa caucuses traditionally play a key role in the presidential campaign by winnowing the field of candidates and providing momentum for the top finishers heading into the early primaries in New Hampshire and other states.
Clinton's campaign has focused on boosting her appeal in Iowa, including two visits with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, by her side over the summer. The effort appears to have paid off, according to the poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers that was published in Sunday's Des Moines Register.
Clinton was supported by 29 percent of the 399 respondents to the poll conducted October 1-3, compared with 21% in May.
Edwards and Obama are not far behind, ensuring that all three campaigns will continue their intense efforts in Iowa, which leads off voting in the 2008 primary contests. The primaries are to choose delegates to the party's national presidential nominating convention.
"I'm doing everything I can to earn the support of Iowans," Clinton said during a stop in New Hampton. A standing room only crowd at a community center was warmed up by listening to the disco hit "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."
"I pay absolutely no attention to what any poll says or what any pundit on TV says," the former first lady said. "I have absolutely no interest in that. Nobody has come to a caucus yet. Nobody has cast a vote yet."
In the Iowa caucuses, tentatively scheduled for January 14 although the date could be moved up, members of each major party meet publicly in schools, private homes and other sites, declare support for their favorite candidate, and the statewide tally is used to determine the allocation of delegates pledged to different contenders.
While Clinton visited small towns in eastern Iowa, Edwards was in the midst of a four-day tour of the state that included stops in 17 counties. The new poll showed his support falling from 29%, good enough for first place in May, to 23%. That is a statistical tie with Obama's 22%.
The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
Edwards told reporters in Davenport that he sees it as a close three-way race, with his two chief rivals rising recently because "they spend millions of dollars on television advertising."
"But, I think it's much more important to Iowa caucus-goers to see you in the flesh - see you stand before them, look them in the eye and answer their hard questions," Edwards said.
Clinton got one of those hard questions in New Hampton, and it led to a heated exchanged.
Randall Rolph of Nashua challenged her for voting last month to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Some Democrats said they feared that such a designation could be interpreted as a congressional authorization of military force in Iran.
Rolph compared Clinton's vote on the Iran measure with her vote to authorize war in Iraq. "It appears you haven't learned from your past mistakes," he said.
Clinton responded that his interpretation was wrong and suggested that someone put him up to asking the question. The man said he did his own research and was offended that she would accuse him of getting it elsewhere. She apologized but insisted he must be looking at the wrong version of the bill.
Their exchanged grew heated as he insisted the bill would authorize combat. Clinton snapped back, her voice rising, "I'm sorry, sir, it does not."
"I know what we voted for, and I know what we intended to do with it," she said. She said it gives the authority to impose penalties.
Many in the crowd applauded her in an effort to cut off the exchange, although afterward at least a couple of others in the room came up to thank Rolph. He said he is still undecided about which Democrat he will support, but it will not be Clinton.