J-Pod: I must defend the so-called “common wisdom” that “everyone is wrong” for paying attention to national polls. Here’s a CNN/USA Today poll, nationwide, from October 2003:
Howard Dean 16 percent; Wesley Clark 15 percent; Dick Gephardt 12 percent; Joe Lieberman 12 percent; John Kerry 10 percent; Rev Al Sharpton 6 percent; John Edwards 6 percent; Carol Mosley Braun 4 percent; and Dennis Kucinich 1 percent.
Note that John Kerry was in fifth place. All it took was one big victory in Iowa, and he went (if I recall) from third or fourth to first in New Hampshire. After that, Edwards and Clark won primaries, but Kerry never had to look back.
If anything, I expect that this cycle’s accelerated primary schedule will amplify this trend. All it takes is one big victory in Iowa, and several other dominoes will follow, because no one has the cash or energy to run campaigns in all of the big February 5 states. It will be a momentum game, as it always is.