The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll from Iowa has Barack Obama leading a tight race with 30 percent of likely caucus-goers supporting him. Hillary Clinton is second with 26 percent, followed by John Edwards with 22 percent. Things may actually be worse for Clinton than these numbers suggest. According to the poll, a disproportionately large number of Clinton supporters have never participated in a caucus. On its face, this suggests that they may not show up on a freezing night in the first week of January.
Moreover, Clinton’s natural constituency includes women with children in their house. A friend who worked the 2004 Iowa caucus on the Democratic side told me that caucus participants tend disproportionately to be males and older women. This makes sense, since the process occurs on a school night.
The Clinton machine thus faces an immense challenge just to get her supporters to turn out. If she has fewer supporters than Obama to start with, she becomes the clear underdog.
The good news for Clinton is that she doesn’t need to win the Iowa caucus.
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