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In dueling Iowa polls, the fine print is important to note

December 3, 2007 |  1:22 pm

The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, buffeted by the Des Moines Register's Sunday front page trumpeting its poll that gave Barack Obama a slight lead over her (28% to 25%) among likely Democratic caucus-goers, responded today with a release spotlighting two surveys that put her ahead in the Hawkeye state.

The Associated Press/Pew Research Center poll reported Clinton backed by 31% of the likely caucus-goers, followed by Obama (26%), John Edwards (19%) and Bill Richardson (10%). Iowa State University weighed in with these numbers: Clinton, 30.8%; Edwards, 24.4%; Obama 20.2%; Richardson, 11.4%.

In all three of the surveys, the advantage for the leader is within the margin of error. So basically, they all confirm one obvious point -- the Democratic race in Iowa is very tight and very fluid.

A closer look at the polls, however, reveals a potentially key difference between the Register's survey and the other two: timeliness.

The newspaper's poll was conducted from Nov. 25 (Sunday a week ago) through last Thursday. The AP/Pew survey was conducted Nov. 7-25, while the Iowa State poll was in the field Nov. 6-18.

Pollsters like to refer to their findings as "snapshots in time." The AP/Pew and Iowa State polls strike us as a bit lengthy in the development stage.

-- Don Frederick