Broad appeal was key for Kerry and Edwards

Iowa entrance poll shows both won strong backing of major voter groups

Election 2004

Iowa Caucuses

January 20, 2004|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

DES MOINES, Iowa - Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards reshaped the Democratic presidential race in the Iowa caucuses last night by demonstrating broad appeal across the party, while Howard Dean and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt saw their core base of support crumble, according to a poll of voters.

Kerry, lagging behind Dean and Gephardt in Iowa until last week, beat both among virtually every major group of voters. Kerry had almost equal appeal to men and women, working-class and more affluent voters, liberals and moderates, and those with and without a college education, according to the survey of caucus-goers last night.

Edwards, in finishing a strong second, also showed an impressive reach, winning significant support from these groups.

The poll found that Edwards and Kerry surged among voters who made their decisions in the week before the caucuses.

Dean and Gephardt launched negative television ads in Iowa at the start of that period. Both of their campaigns concluded in the past few days that the crossfire had hurt each of them and benefited Kerry and Edwards.

Dean's third-place finish represented a severe setback for a candidate who had led in the polls both here and nationally through most of the fall.

Perhaps the most ominous aspect for Dean of his third-place showing that it came in a state where Democrats overwhelmingly agreed with his position on the Iraq war: The survey found that 75 percent of those who attended the caucuses opposed it.

But he was hurt by the importance of that issue among the Iowa voters. According to the poll, Dean ran ahead among those attending the caucuses who said the war was the most important issue. But they represented just one-seventh of those who participated.

For Dean, who stressed his opposition to the war here, that finding suggests his first imperative as the race moves to New Hampshire could be to broaden his message and appeal.

Gephardt's showing spelled the end of his hopes this year. He not only placed fourth in a state he carried in his 1988 bid, but he failed to hold the groups that had been his base in Iowa: seniors, voters without a college education and union members.

Kerry carried all three of those groups, and Edwards beat Gephardt with the first two and tied him with the third, the poll found.

The National Election Pool Survey contacted 1,659 voters across Iowa as they entered 50 precincts last night. The survey used a confidential, self-administered questionnaire. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. For some subgroups, the margin could be higher.

The survey was conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, a cooperative arrangement among ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, Cable News Network, Fox News and NBC News.

The official results from the Iowa Democratic Party measured something else: the allocation of delegates from the caucuses. Because of the rules governing the allocation of delegates - for instance, candidates receive no delegates in precincts where they attract less than 15 percent of the vote - the preferences measured in the entrance poll and the delegate allocation totals vary somewhat.

But both results pointed to the same story: a significant surge for Kerry and Edwards, a significant decline for Dean and a virtual collapse for Gephardt.

For Kerry and Edwards, the breadth of support both showed could be a powerful asset as the race advances into states that represent different elements of the Democratic Party.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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