Good and bad news for Clinton: Obama has a wide lead in South Carolina, but it's going to be hard to ignore Florida

Zogby's first tracking poll of the Democratic race in South Carolina is out, and it gives a wide lead to Barack Obama:

  • Obama gets 43% to Clinton's 25%. Edwards's is not that far behind, at 15%.
  • Clinton is doing stunningly poorly among two groups. First, she loses the black vote 65% to 16%. And she barely gets a better share of the male vote, trailing 50% to 19%. The white vote is very divided, as Clinton is barely ahead of Edwards there -- 33% to 32%, with Obama trailing at 18%.
Zogby points out that Edwards appears to be catching up a bit more every day -- and there is no question that Clinton falling to third would be a big blow to her campaign. But that for now seems unlikely. Even if Edwards manages to pull to a tie among the white vote, most polls agree that he gets almost no share of the black vote which would make it very difficult for him to rise to a significant percentage.

The problem for Obama right now is that, if these numbers hold on Saturday, many in the media might be tempted to describe him as "a black candidate" who won on the strength of the black vote. Needless to say that such racial polarization would not play well for Obama come February 5th. This would naturally be extremely unfair to Obama and a stunning mischaracterization of the campaign since he had no problem winning a large plurality in Iowa, which is pretty much entirely white. So let's keep in mind that no one dismissed Clinton as the "female candidate" after New Hampshire because she relied on the women vote to get ahead.

Meanwhile, Clinton gets some very good news in her quest to make Florida relevant. All polls indicate that she is marching towards a big victory in the Sunshine state and, a week from Super Tuesday, she is hoping that gives her a boost -- especially if it can offset the probable loss in South Carolina. The problem, of course, is that no one is campaigning in Florida because of the pledge, there is no ads running (except on national cable, though even that sparked a controversy when Obama started running his) and no delegates. But look at what Marc Ambinder reports out of Florida today:

For Democrats, the number of returned absentee ballots in Florida so far exceeds the total number turned in in the 2004 general election, and the number of Democratic early voters plus the number of absentees requested is more than the number of actual voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada combined.

The numbers tell the story: 96,286 absentee ballots have already been returned, and the turnout projection right now exceeds a million voters. Can the media possibly ignore a contest in which voters came out in such high numbers and had an actual choice between candidates, since no candidate withdrew his name from the ballot? In Michigan, only Hillary was on the ballot so her "win" obviously had to be presented with question marks. But in a contest in which none of the candidate has an unfair advantage, how can the press not cover the primary if that many voters go to the polls?

Labels: ,