Evening polls: California shaping up to be the big prize of Super Tuesday

The first noteworthy poll released today comes from South Carolina and its Democratic primary, which is only 4 days away:

  • Barack Obama is widening his lead, as he gets 44% to Clinton's 28% and Edwards's 15%. A week ago, the margin was 44-31.
  • As always, the numbers to watch in SC polls are the racial breakdown, and the electorate is clearly very polarized: Obama leads 70% to 15% among the black vote (I know I often repeat this, but it was only about four months ago that Clinton still led among African-Americans). Among whites, Obama is third at 17%, behind Clinton at 43% and Edwards at 30%. Consider also that 51% of the sample of this poll is black. And another very interesting observation is that Barack's lead is the same among males and females.
The only good news for the Clinton campaign is that her South Carolina loss is expected and will be covered accordingly by the media come Saturday. But she has to be careful to not fall too far behind; while Obama is expected to win, a 16% loss would be much more than the CW dictates and could be lead Clinton into a world of trouble 10 days from February 5th.

Speaking of Super Tuesday, California is looking to be the prize to get as it is the only very big state that is not in the home-area of one of the Democratic candidates (Obama has Illinois, Clinton has NY and NJ). And among Republicans, CA and its winner-take-all delegate allocation could decide who emerges out of February 5th with the delegate lead -- and the status of front-runner. With that, we got two polls from California today. First, the Republican race:

  • EMC Research found John McCain at 24% followed by Romney at 20%. A week prior (in survey taken shortly after New Hampshire), McCain had 30% and Romney 14%, so some major movement. Behind, Fred Thompson is third at 12%, Mike Huckabee at 11% and Giuliani at 7%.
The most shocking number is probably Giuliani's fifth place showing; he was long ahead by significant margins in states like California. But as he lost his national lead, he also collapsed in places like this. Would even a win in Florida save him at this point?

Second, remember that California is a closed primary (like Florida) and that McCain will face the same problem as in the Sunshine State: How to win with the smallest possible plurality? His hope is to keep the race fractured -- but with Thompson's withdrawal, that's 12% (probably coming from conservative voters) that will have to be redistributed. So don't count Romney out, especially considering that he will certainly fund extensive ad campaigns in this state.

  • On the Democratic side, EMC has Clinton leading 39% to Obama's 28%. Edwards gets 12%.
  • More importantly, a Field Poll was released (the survey that is considered by far the most reliable among CA pollsters). The numbers are very similar to EMC: Clinton gets 39% to Obama's 27% and Edwards's 10%. This is more or less the same margin that the Field poll had found in December. And it is remarkable how stable hte race has been. The first Field poll, released in March, had Clinton up 41% to 28%!
  • The Field poll provides interesting internals: Clinton leads 59% to 19% among Latinos, who make up 26% of the poll's sample. Obama leads by less among black voters, while the two are tied among whites. So Clinton's lead is almost entirely fueled by her edge among Latinos.
I had expressed my doubts about how much Clinton's reliance on the Latino vote was justified, saying that they are depending on the theory that Latinos don't want to vote for black candidates. I now have to admit that Clinton's lead among Hispanics appears to be real, though I'm still not sure if this tendency can be attributed to racist sentiments or not. We will hopefully get more information about the Latino vote in the coming weeks.

For now, it appears that neither candidate can possibly be out of the race if they win California, which is what makes this contest so important. An Obama victory especially could make him the front-runner by giving him a come-from-behind victory in a large and diverse state that is far from his own base. And if Clinton combines wins in New York and New Jersey with a triumph in California, she would also probably be hard to beat.

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  • If Barack starts to come up in the polls with Latinos in Ca., I wonder which of the Clinton's surrogates will do the dirty work this time?

    By Anonymous stone621, At 23 January, 2008 06:08  

  • CA isn't that important on the Demo side.

    The crazy new rules in how they distribute their delegates shakes things way up.

    It is VERY possible to loose the state by 20% and win the delegate count.

    A statewide win only gains you 1 delegate per point.

    A 20 delegate bonus can easy be swallowed up by winning more counties.

    CA can EASILY be like NV. HC win the state vote, and Obama wins the delegate count.

    CA, NJ, NY, TX, and most others are all like this now. Its NOT about winning states anymore. Its winning "Regions".

    Win 1 region by 20% get 3 delegates. Loose 1 region by 1% and loose 3 delegates.

    A 19% win turns into a tie.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 23 January, 2008 13:30  

  • PLEASE read the new rules. It seems the members of the press don't even know the rules.

    And if you don't even know the rules, it seems real impossible to take what you say very seriously.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 23 January, 2008 13:32  

  • Rules or no rules, major blocks of votors still matter. Farmworker's Union doesn't count as it once did. Too many corrupt leaders are just in it for the money. I read the LA Times everyday and they are getting lots of negative publicaty.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 24 January, 2008 20:38  

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