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Committed Support for Edwards Leapfrogs Clinton (Briefly?)

You read that right: by Irregular Times’ measures, committed support for John Edwards surpassed that for Hillary Clinton this past week.

For two years and four months now, Irregular Times has been tracking one measure of strength of 2008 contenders that the media doesn’t touch. Rather than track public opinion polls of a representative sample of the American public, we’re looking at a possibly more important measure: the number of bumper stickers, campaign buttons, posters and t-shirts that we sell in support for each of those Democrats. People who buy these items are supporting their favorite candidate in a committed and public way when they wear a shirt, sport a button, or slap a sticker on their car. That’s the kind of core support that campaigns can really depend on to weather political storms.

We’ve recently accelerated our reporting schedule for this tracking statistic, adding quick updates every week to the more detailed updates every month. These weekly posts add data to trend lines we’ve updated since the beginning of the year. Over all this time, we’ve seen the following order in popularity:

1st place: Barack Obama
2nd place: Hillary Clinton
3rd place: Al Gore
4th place: John Edwards
5th place: Bill Richardson

That’s the overall order of committed support for the candidates. But beneath the continuing large level of popular support for Barack Obama, other changes have been taking place, this week especially. Here’s the data for the year so far:

Committed support for Democratic Presidential Candidates, January 1 to March 31, 2007

The consistently high performance of Barack Obama has sagged a bit over recent weeks, but really only a bit — there is a very large distance between the level of support held by Barack Obama and the level of support for any of the other possible presidential nominees. The other media-appointed “frontrunner” is not doing so well. Hillary Clinton fell to fourth place this past week, behind Al Gore and John Edwards. Apparently, Senator Clinton has done very well at gala fundraisers, but with the non-gala public she’s not even close to Barack Obama when it comes to expressions of commitment. The other interesting development is the rise of John Edwards — part of this rise may be due to the announcement regarding Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, but as you can see there was a slow but steady rise in the level of support for him already occurring before the announcement.

And then there’s Al Gore. After An Inconvenient Truth, after the Oscars and Gore’s Academy Award, Al Gore still is gathering a lot of support from people who would like to draft him into the presidential race. Will a Draft Gore movement succeed? My own guess is that the answer will depend on the heat of this year’s summer and the outcome of this year’s hurricane season.

Will Edwards’ rise in popular support continue? What happens when a hypothetical candidate, Al Gore, is more popular than an actual front-runner? Look for another update next week.

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