Poll: Obama's New Ideas Garner Favor in Iowa

Better yet for the Obama camp is that only a third of Iowa Democrats now say "strength and experience" is more important to them in a candidate; 55 percent instead put more emphasis on "a new direction and new ideas," which he's tried to make his trademark.

Among those "new direction" voters, 43 percent prefer Obama, while just 17 percent go for Clinton -- a major component of his support. Among voters more concerned with strength and experience, 38 percent prefer Clinton, vs. just 12 percent for Obama.

ATTRIBUTES -- But if Clinton is vulnerable on some personal measures, so is Obama -- notably in having "the best experience to be president" in which he runs fourth, behind Clinton, Edwards and Richardson alike. Still, while just 11 percent pick Obama as having the best experience, the biggest change from July is in the number who pick Clinton in this measure -- 38 percent now, down from 50 percent then.

Obama is within sight of Clinton on another of her main features, an image of strong leadership: Thirty-two percent call her the strongest leader, vs. 27 percent for Obama; it was 36-23 percent last summer. And both Obama and Edwards lead Clinton in honesty and trustworthiness, and in empathy, two relative weaknesses for her nationally as well.

Clinton retains her lead in being seen as the most electable candidate, though it's much less of an advantage in Iowa than nationally. And few fault her effort: She also leads as the candidate who's campaigned hardest in the state.

ISSUES -- As noted, Clinton also has much less of a lead in Iowa than she's enjoyed nationally in trust to handle a range of specific issues. Indeed in Iowa she has the edge on just one of six issues tested in this poll, health care. She and Obama run about evenly in trust to handle four others -- the economy overall, Social Security, Iraq and Iran.

Clinton trails off on a sixth issue, immigration; on that it's about an even choice between Obama and Richardson, the governor of New Mexico.

Comparisons to national data are striking. In an ABC/Post poll early this month, for example, Clinton led Obama by 2-1 in trust to handle the situation in Iraq. In this poll 26 percent of likely caucus-goers pick Obama on that issue -- up by 9 points from July -- while 23 percent take Clinton, down by 6.

Yet it's notable, too, that in Iowa none of Clinton's challengers has a significant lead on any of these.

Separately, Iowa Democrats cite Iraq as the single most important issue in their choice (33 percent), with health care a close second, cited by 26 percent. Ten percent say it's the economy, with all other mentions in the single digits. (Among Democrats nationally, Iraq is farther out front as the top concern, with the economy alongside health care as No. 2.)

GROUPS -- A look at candidate preferences among groups fleshes out their campaigns' support profiles -- crucial as they seek to motivate supporters to turn out for the caucuses. (One factor -- their supporters' levels of enthusiasm -- is about even.)

As noted, Clinton has a particular problem in Iowa with men -- just 19 percent support, vs. her 31 percent support among women. Obama and Edwards alike lead her among men, and Richardson is within sampling error.

Among women, meanwhile, Clinton and Obama run about evenly, compared with a more than 2-1 Clinton lead nationally. (Clinton leads in Iowa among single women, but trails Obama among those who are married.)

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