State News

Poll: No Home-State Advantage for Edwards

Posted September 28, 2007 10:32 a.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2007 6:58 p.m. EDT

— A new poll shows Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton leading North Carolina's own John Edwards, with 37 percent of respondents indicating their support for the former First Lady.

Of the three Democratic candidates most favored by respondents, Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama were tied at 18 percent.

The poll, conducted Sept. 24-27 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 664 North Carolina residents. It has a margin of error between 6 and 7 percentage points.

"I think we're really starting to lose our connection to Edwards," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Taylor downplayed Edwards' home-state disadvantage, noting North Carolina's presidential primary is so late in the process that it likely won't matter in choosing the Democratic nominee.

South Carolina could pose more of a problem for Edwards than North Carolina, he said. The Palmetto State is the only primary he won in 2004, and it's early in the primary process next year, which makes it important for momentum.

"He is not getting much traction there, and the African-American vote is really falling away from underneath him," he said.

Taylor also said Edwards' decision to accept public campaign financing signals a problem for his campaign. By opting for public money, Edwards ties himself to a $40 million fundraising cap, far below the $100 million spending level that many analysts predict will be needed to secure the nomination.

"If you really wanted to be a serious player in this, you needed to forget public financing," he said. "It's a sign of weakness. It's a sign of trouble. But it's not necessarily a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Edwards said his decision is a sign of integrity – he's holding the line on the money chase.

"I don't mean to sound holier than thou, but I think the system is broken. It doesn't work, which is why I called on all Democrats to say, 'We're not going to take Washington lobbyist money,'" he said.

In the Elon poll, 38 percent of respondents said they plan to support the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election, while 34 percent of respondents indicated their support for the Republican Party.

Twenty-five percent of citizens believe it is too early to tell or do not know which party they will support.

Among Republican presidential candidates, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has a slight lead over former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Twenty-eight percent of those polled said they plan to support Thompson, 21 percent Giuliani and 12 percent Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Respondents also answered a number of questions about Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who registered a 50 percent job approval rating, compared with 25 percent who disapproved, while the remainder didn't know or didn't respond. Fifty-three percent said they were satisfied with how she represented the state.

The poll suggests her views on the war in Iraq could play a large issue if someone challenges her re-election bid.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the war would influence their vote in the Senate race and only 32 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with how Dole was handling the war issue. Dole has been among the Senate's strongest supporters in the war, although she has been more critical recently.

And on taxes, a core GOP issue, more people were unsatisfied with Dole's performance than satisfied, according to the poll.

"North Carolinians are mixed in evaluating Dole's performance," Elon poll director Hunter Bacot said. "The dissatisfaction with how she's handling the Iraq War issue, coupled with its emergence as the dominant issue influencing how citizens will vote, could prove quite problematic for her campaign should someone decide to oppose her."

Still, no Democrats have announced they will run against Dole, who handily beat Erskine Bowles in 2002. State Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh and Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro are considering runs for the Democratic nomination.

In next year's race for governor, the polls shows Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue with an apparent lead over State Treasurer Richard Moore for the Democratic nomination, 35 percent to 27 percent. But 38 percent surveyed hadn't made up their minds.

Perdue will begin her campaign for governor on Monday in New Bern.

The uncertainty was much greater among Republican choices for governor, with two-thirds polled not choosing a candidate. Salisbury attorney Bill Graham had 12 percent of the vote, following by state Sen. Fred Smith and former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr at 11 percent apiece.