If you think Americans are ready for a new direction after six years of George W. Bush, you're absolutely right: In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out today, 74 percent of Americans say they want the next president to take a "different approach" than this one has.
But if you think that means the next president has just got to be a Democrat, well, you're only sort of right. Fifty percent of Americans say they'd prefer that the next president be a Democrat, while 39 percent would prefer a Republican. And when you go from general, generic preferences to actual, specific candidates, things get a little more complicated than that: In the WSJ/NBC poll, Republican Rudy Giuliani is running neck-and-neck with each of the three Democratic front-runners: He trails Hillary Clinton by a point, John Edwards by a point and Barack Obama by two points.
So which one of those will be the Democratic nominee? The WSJ/NBC poll has Clinton at 47 percent nationally, with Obama at 25 percent, Edwards at 11 percent and nobody else getting even halfway to double digits. But the picture looks pretty different where it's likely to matter most -- in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A new Zogby poll has Clinton leading among likely Iowa caucusgoers, but not by much. She's at 28 percent, followed by Obama at 25 percent and Edwards at 21 percent, and Zogby points out that the race is actually closer than that. In the first round of Iowa caucus balloting, anyone who doesn't get 15 percent of the vote is eliminated. Zogby tried to replicate that process by asking respondents who selected a would-be "unviable" candidate -- Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel -- to name their second choice. With those second-choice responses factored in, Clinton leads Obama by just one percentage point and Edwards by just three.
In New Hampshire, meanwhile, Rasmussen reports that Clinton's lead has "fallen to its lowest level of the season." She currently has the support of 34 percent of New Hampshire Democrats, with Obama at 24 percent and Edwards at 15 percent. Richardson is at 8 percent, which is what Dodd, Biden and Kucinich are polling combined. Those results are consistent with an American Research Group poll taken at the end of October.