The release of new Iowa poll numbers by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics is one of the few stop-what-you-are-doing-and-see-what-they-say moments left in politics. The woman behind the poll, which gets Iowa right every time, is Ann Selzer. After the new Register numbers came out Saturday night, I reached out to Ann to see if she might expand on a few questions I had about the poll. She agreed. Our conversation, conducted via e-mail, is below. It's been edited only for grammar and flow.
FIX: Looking at the results in the new DMR poll, you said this of the Democratic side: “This feels like 2008 all over again.” Explain.
SELZER: Sanders leads with first-time caucus-goers and self-defined independents. Also, young people.
First-time voters: Bernie Sanders wins by 8 points
Independents: Sanders wins by 21 points
Under age 45: Sanders wins by 23 points
Those were the Obama constituencies that catapulted him to victory. As in 2008, Clinton does well with:
Experienced caucus-goers: Hillary Clinton wins by 12 points
Democrats: Clinton wins by 13 points
We know those are the demographic groups Clinton targeted in 2007, apparently blind to the Obama campaign's recruitment of new caucus-goers. On caucus night 2008, about 60 percent of the people in the room were caucusing for the first time.
FIX: More than 6 in 10 likely Democratic caucus-goers said Clinton’s e-mail issue is “not important” to her candidacy. But, if the email controversy doesn’t matter, why have her number faded so badly in the last four months?
SELZER: Sanders appears to be bringing in first-time caucus-goers. So an influx of Sanders supporters could be part of what is suppressing the Clinton vote. And keep in mind, 17 percent say Clinton's e-mail situation is very or fairly important to them. A couple of points here, a couple of points there, and it adds up. Still, most of Bernie Sanders's supporters pick Clinton as their second choice.
FIX: Jeb Bush is underwater in his favorable (45)/unfavorable (50) ratings among likely GOP caucus-goers. Is there a path for him to win Iowa? If so, how?
SELZER: That is more a question for a pundit than a pollster. I will point out that his unfavorable rating is now 50 percent, five points higher than in May. Other candidates with growing unfavorables: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum.
FIX: Donald Trump and Ben Carson come in 1-2 in your GOP poll. What does this tell us about the mood of the Iowa Republican electorate? And how likely are they to stay in that mood until actual votes are cast?
SELZER: If you add together votes for Trump plus Carson plus Fiorina, it equals 46 percent. None have held office. (Side note: The Fix highlighted this trend here.) It's hard not to see that as an anti-government mood. As for how likely are they to stay, my 8-Ball used to say, "Reply hazy, try again." We've seen strange things happen that shake up the race, even in the final days.