Howard Dean is leading in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, but a demographic portrait of the voters he's drawing nationwide shows he'll face major challenges when the opening contests are over and the Democratic field narrows.
An analysis of the Democratic electorate indicates that the former Vermont governor's major rivals are likely to be in a better position than he is to appeal to voters whose candidates drop out of the race. And many of the contests next on the calendar are in states dominated by the sort of voters Dean has had relatively little success drawing, at least so far.
USA TODAY combined responses from 3,238 Democrats surveyed in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll since September, when retired general Wesley Clark entered the race. They were sorted into the 14 demographic groups devised by the marketing firm Claritas, which uses Census data to characterize Americans by income, education and lifestyle.
The contrast between Dean and Clark, who lead the field, is stark…
The "Rustic Living" group looms large in the Democratic contests. It makes up the biggest bloc of Democratic voters, comprising one in 10 U.S. households but one in six Democrats. It is the greatest source of support for Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.