At Saturday night's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Hillary Clinton told Iowa voters that "there are some who will say they don't know where I stand." "Well," she said, "I think you know better than that. I stand where I have stood for 35 years. I stand with you and with your children and with every American who needs a fighter in their corner for a better life."
Is Clinton right when she says that Iowans know where she stands? Maybe, but a new CBS News/New York Times poll out today may suggest otherwise. Forty-seven percent of Iowa Democrats tell pollsters that Clinton "says what she believes most of the time"; 48 percent say "she says what she thinks people want to hear." Asked whether they have favorable or unfavorable opinions of various Democratic presidential candidates, more Iowa Democrats said they were "undecided" about Hillary Clinton than about Barack Obama, John Edwards or Bill Richardson.
Fifty-nine percent of Iowa Democrats said they viewed Clinton favorably, compared with 73 percent who had favorable views of Edwards and 72 percent who looked kindly on Obama.
The CBS/NYT poll, like other recent polls, has Clinton, Obama and Edwards running nearly neck-and-neck-and-neck in Iowa. In New Hampshire, where polls show Clinton with a significant lead over her challengers, 54 percent of Democrats say Clinton "says what she believes most of the time," and she has lower "undecided" numbers than Obama, Edwards or Richardson.
If Clinton wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, the CBS/NYT poll suggests that it will be because Democrats think she has the best chance of winning the general election and is the best prepared for the job she'd face if she does. But Democrats in both states say that Obama would be more likely to bring about real change as president and that both Obama and Edwards are more likely to say what they think than what people want to hear.
One line of argument that doesn't seem to be helping Clinton: The notion that she has been the victim of "piling on" by other Democratic candidates. Fifty-nine percent of New Hampshire Democrats and 68 percent of Iowa Democrats describe the other Democratic candidates as either attacking Clinton fairly or not attacking her at all.