David Yepsen was in the studio this afternoon for a live appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews… Here’s what the Register columnist had to say on polling numbers, the caucuses, and the candidates.
On latest poll numbers:
“The polls in Iowa are very different from the national polls. As David Schuster mentioned in that setup piece of his, the polls in Iowa are showing this thing a statistical tie. Newsweek’s poll has Barack Obama up by two points. Now, that’s all margin of error stuff but you can ask Howard Dean what a big lead in the polls means right now if you lose Iowa. It tends to evaporate everything else down the road in New Hampshire.”
Q: Will the Iowa caucuses still have that power, that punch to help the winner and hurt the loser?
“I think so Chris, and I think so because of this business of these other states moving up their contests. Everybody hates Iowa and New Hampshire so their solution is to move their contests closer to IA and N.H. which just makes IA and N.H. that much more important. A winner gets the ball rolling here. A challenger has to slow the front runner down the end result is everybody pours it on out there. That phenomenon is happening in both parties – particularly on the democratic side – where you do have this three-way race among three candidates.”
“And right now I think Barack Obama has got a better organization in this state than Hillary Clinton does. He’s got more field offices. He’s spending more time in small towns in Iowa. Sen. Clinton knows this that’s why she’s planning a trip out here to get into some of these small towns were there are a lot of delegates to be had. So the predictive value of these national polls in Iowa is pretty limited.”
Q: Do you see anyone out there running who is going to take this country of our’s to a different place if they get elected?
“Not yet, Chris, but I think Barack Obama has the best potential for doing that. You can see that in some of the crowds he attracts – new people, young people – they’re interested in what he represents. A fresh face. A change. So I think he’s got the potential for that. He’s not been doing such good work on the stump. So he needs to sharpen that message and do better in these debates. I think if he does that he can start accomplishing what you’re talking about.”
Q: If Hillary sits on her lead and doesn’t say anything and simply has a smart operation – smug and smart – can she get blown away here?
“Yes, she can, Chris. I mean I think there’s some evidence that that could happen. They’re not a very nimble campaign. It reminds me of Ronald Reagan in 1980 when he thought he could bypass Iowa and wound up firing John Sears in New Hampshire. Or Al Gore when he had to strip down his campaign in 2000 and move it to Nashville. The Clinton campaign is very, sort of top heavy and sluggish. It’s bureaucratic. She’s got to get rid of some of that. Get out from underneath that bubble. Allow some media people a chance to interview her. Get into the small towns of Iowa and do some retail.”
Matthews: She went on the Sunday talk shows – all five of them – made no news in five appearances. It was a tour de force if her goal is to say nothing. David?
“Well I think she’s got to start fleshing some of this stuff out. She’s done a good job in some of these debates. I mean one reason she has taken off in national polls is she’s had some good performances in some of these debates. So I think, you know, let Hillary be Hillary. Let her get out there. Quit trying to treat her like an incumbent. She engages well. I think it’s one of the reasons she’s come up in Iowa. I mean, six months ago when we looked at these polls, she was back in second and third place. Now she’s very competitive. I just think they need to get closer to the ground with her and get her out of that shell. Get her out of that bubble and let people see her because she could become the instrument of change. She’s a women in this campaign with serious chance to become President and that has a lot of appeal to women and last time I checked the majority of caucus goers are women.”
Q: Wondering if he’ll [Giuliani] will benefit from Hillary’s ascendancy?
“You know, I don’t think so. I think he’s running a pretty poor campaign out here, not doing what he should. He’s flying all over the country. It’s like he’s already moved to the general election strategy. And out here he’s got to get by Mitt Romney…Well, first thing’s first.”