With just two days remaining until the February 3rd primaries and caucuses – which will be held in Arizona, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and North Dakota – many of the Democratic candidates are crisscrossing these seven states to garner votes for their candidacy. A new Los Angeles Times/CNN poll was conducted in three of these states – Arizona, South Carolina and Missouri.

South Carolina was polled because of its importance as the first southern state to hold a primary. Voters in this southern state have a different sensibility from Midwestern voters in Iowa and New England voters in New Hampshire. South Carolina also has a more racially diverse electorate where roughly a quarter of Democratic voters are African-American. N.C. Senator John Edwards stands a good chance of placing first there which would renew his campaign.

Missouri is now wide open since native son, Congressman Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race. The poll shows that Mass. Senator John Kerry seems to be doing well in this state. And Arizona is a state with many retirees and veterans. Both Kerry and retired General Wesley Clark could do well there.

The outcome of the Democratic primary in each of these three states is by no means a fait accompli for any of the candidates still pursuing the Democratic nomination. More than a fifth of likely Democratic voters in Arizona and South Carolina and three in 10 Missouri voters are still undecided; roughly two in five voters in each of these states said there is a possibility that they might end up voting for someone else.

Edwards has spent a lot of time in South Carolina saying that he is the only candidate that can carry the South and help the Democrats win the presidency. He has criticized Kerry for saying that a Democrat can win without any southern state. However, Kerry may have been helped with the endorsement of U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn, a popular African-American elected official (who initially endorsed Dick Gephardt). According to the current poll, Edwards has a 12 point lead over Kerry in this state. In Arizona, Kerry and Clark are in a tight race, while in Missouri, Kerry has a very wide lead over any of his closest opponents.

Former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean at this point doesn’t have any television ads in the seven states with contests on Feb. 3rd . His campaign says that they are setting their sights toward the more delegate-rich states of Michigan (caucus on February 10th), Washington, Wisconsin, California and New York. This strategy is risky, but in order to secure the Democratic party nomination, a candidate must receive at least 2,200 delegates and Dean is looking ahead toward the nomination.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s fifth place finish in New Hampshire has not helped his chances in these states. He is getting low single digit support. The same is true for Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Arizona

Vote/Certainty of Vote: Although John Kerry came out of Iowa and New Hampshire with first place wins, the Democratic likely primary voters in Arizona are not yet convinced that he is the candidate to vote for. He has not “closed the deal” with these voters. The seven presidential hopefuls are vying for the 55 delegates from this state (another 9 delegates are not bound by the primary).

A new Los Angeles Times/CNN poll shows that if the election were being held today, John Kerry would receive the support of 29% of Democratic likely primary voters, followed by 22% for Wesley Clark, 13% for Howard Dean, 8% for John Edwards, 3% for Joe Lieberman, 2% for Dennis Kucinich and 1% for Al Sharpton. (Kerry’s lead is within the poll’s five point margin of error.) However, 22% of the Democratic primary electorate said that they are undecided. Along with this indecision about who to vote for is the fact that almost two in five Arizona voters said they could vote for someone else. Still, among the more than three-fifths who said they are certain of their vote, more voters support Kerry (43%) over Clark (25%) and more than twice as many would support Kerry over Dean. Kerry backers are the only ones that are solidly behind their candidate. More than two out of five Clark and Dean voters and nearly half of Edwards voters still could change their minds.

Support of Candidate: Among all Arizona Democratic likely voters, 16% said they like their candidate because of their candidate’s military background, chance of winning in November (13%) charisma (12%) and experience (12%). Among those who cited military background as a reason for supporting their candidate, roughly two-thirds are voting for Clark, while the other third back Kerry. The voters who cited charisma split their vote between Clark, Kerry and Dean. And those who mentioned experienced, overwhelmingly supported Kerry. Kerry supporters mentioned that he can win in November as the overriding factor why they are supporting him, followed by his experience. (Interestingly, no other candidate’s supporters mentioned beating Bush as a reason to support their candidate.) Clark supporters like his military background.

As in a Los Angeles Times pre-Iowa caucus poll and New Hampshire exit poll, Democratic likely voters in Arizona think it is more important to vote for a candidate that agrees with them on the issues (50%) rather than deciding on a candidate that has the best chance of beating President Bush (43%). However, those who want a candidate that could beat Bush in November, more than 2 out of five are backing Kerry. As was shown by the vote in New Hampshire and to a degree in Arizona, more voters believe Kerry has two attributes that are needed to become the Democratic nominee — electability and experience.

Just under a fifth of voters said that the outcome of the New Hampshire primary will play either a major or a minor role in their decision on Feb. 3 and this group is strongly backing Kerry. Among the more than four out of five voters that said N.H. will not play a role in their candidate’s decision, the vote is split between Clark (31%) and Kerry (30%).

Issues like to hear discussed: Unlike the New Hampshire voters, Arizona likely primary voters mentioned Iraq as the number one issue they would like the candidates to discuss at 28%, followed closely by the economy and healthcare. Among voters who mentioned the Iraq war, a third backed Kerry, while a quarter supported Clark and nearly a quarter backed Dean. And voters who cited the economy as an important issue somewhat split their vote between Kerry (31%) and Clark (26%). Kerry received the support of those who mentioned healthcare (37%).

In order to pay for expanding access to healthcare, more than half of voters would prefer a Democratic nominee who wants to repeal tax cuts for the rich, while a third want a nominee to repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. A sizable plurality of voters in Arizona said that trade agreements like NAFTA hurt the economy and take jobs away from the American people, while more than a third believe these free trade agreements help the economy and generate new jobs.

Illegal immigration is a concern for many of the bordering states to Mexico and Arizona is one of those states. This could be an issue in the November election. President Bush proposed legislation that would give amnesty to illegal immigrants already working in the U.S. More than three-fifths of voters do not want a Democratic nominee that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Nearly three out of five voters preferred a Democratic nominee who supports civil unions between same-sex couples that are not marriages.

Presidential qualifications: Nearly three in 10 likely voters believe that John Kerry is the most qualified to become commander-in-chief, while almost the same share of voters believe Wesley Clark has that distinction. Roughly a fifth are not sure which of the candidates would be best qualified. Three-quarters of Clark supporters think he would be best at commander-in-chief, while 72% of Kerry supporters think their candidate has that qualification. Nearly three out of 10 voters also think Kerry has the best temperament to be president, while almost a fifth think Clark does. But a fifth are undecided. Interestingly, Dean is running his campaign as the candidate of change and as an outsider. Yet, 22% of voters believe Kerry will substantially change the way things are done in Washington DC, while 12% cite Dean. Sixteen percent of voters think that Clark is the candidate of change.

Some Demographic Comparisons: