As eyes turn to upcoming contests, Clinton looks like she could rebound

Facing the prospect of losing two more contests next Tuesday when Wisconsin and Hawaii go to the polls, Hillary Clinton appears to have decided to make an effort in Wisconsin. She installed Teresa Vilmain, who ran her Iowa campaign, to organize Wisconsin and she is planning on spending four days in Wisconsin starting on Saturday.

It is unclear whether the campaign thinks it can win in Wisconsin, but they have clearly realized that they cannot afford another 20+ loss, both because of the momentum it would give Obama in a two-week period with no elections and because the delegate lead would just keep widening. Polls suggest that Obama is narrowly ahead, but that Clinton is poised to keep this one close:

  • A new Rasmussen poll released this morning shows Obama leading 47% to 43%, up 23% among men and trailing 10% among women.
Balancing things in Wisconsin could allow Clinton to stay afloat in the final two weeks leading up to March 4th (and its two debates), and preserve her lead going into Ohio. The one public poll of the race for now suggested that she had a 17% lead, and two new surveys out this morning confirm the size of Clinton's lead right now:

  • Rasmussen has Clinton up 14%, 51% to 37%, boosted by a large lead among women.
  • Quinnipiac is even more favorable to Hillary, showing her to be ahead 55% to 21%. Obama is trailing by 26% among white men here, a constituency that has been looking better for him in other states.
The Quinnipiac poll was taken over the course of 6 days post-Super Tuesday, so it does not really incorporate the shifts that might have happened after Obama's latest string of victories, but Rasmussen's was in the field last night. Quinnipiac also released a poll from the Pennsylvania primary, which could prove decisive if Clinton survives March 4th. For now, she has an edge in PA too, leading 52% to 36%. Worth noting that both polls show huge educational gaps and racial gaps.

The challenge Clinton faces is that she cannot just narrowly win the three big contests that are coming up (OH, PA and TX), she needs to do so decisively to cut into Obama's delegate lead. She has not gotten that kind of margin anywhere but New York and Arkansas and, to some degree, in California, where her unexpectedly strong showing gave her an edge of more than 40 delegates. The good news for Hillary is that the events of the past few months have not made her fall in Ohio yet. A 14%+ victory there, if she can also pull off Texas, would surely give her enough momentum to continue and make a renewed case for Florida and Michigan.

  • General election
In conjunction with the primary polls I just mentionned, Quinnipiac also released general election polls in PA, OH and FL, three of the hottest swing states of 2008. All three states are close, confirming that they will once again decide this year's contest, and there is no clear electability difference between Obama and Clinton. If anything, she runs narrowly better than him, especially in Pennsylvania:

  • Against Clinton, McCain leads 44% to 42% in Florida, 44% to 43% in Ohio. He trails 46% to 40% in Pennsylvania.
  • Against Obama, McCain leads 41% to 39% in Florida, 42% to 40% in Ohio and trails 42% to 41% in Pennsylvania.
In all three of these states, Clinton runs significantly better than Obama among registered Democrats -- 15% better in Pennsylvania. And that is not a weakness Obama can necessarily rectify easily as time goes by, as McCain has shown capacity in appealing to moderate Democrats, a group that is not crossing-over if Clinton is their nominee. On the other hand, Obama runs stronger than she does among independents, and their respective weaknesses among indies and Dems offset each other. Now, McCain appeals to both of these groups. Clinton and Obama both defend one turf very well and are weak among the other. It is hard to imagine either doing well without the other group...

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  • I've been looking at the numbers, and I can't see a huge difference between Obama and Clinton in most places.

    It depends on how well the Democrats can attack McCain and chip away at his Maverick status.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 14 February, 2008 11:29  

  • One small thing.

    Obama is outperforming the polls by huge margins.

    Im really wondering if the polls are including the GOPers that are crossing over now that their primary is finished.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 11:30  

  • I agree that Obama is outpolling the polls in many states. Wisconsin is in Illinois' backyard, and there is a great progressive tradition in Wisconsin. I find it hard to conceive Clinton beating Obama there. Having said that, we are hearing more and more now that neither candidate can amass enough delegates to win the nomination without super-delegates throwing in their support. I am really hoping that the democratic party will understand that the candidate with most committed delegates at the end of the primary season is the one who should get the super-delegates' support. Otherwise this whole primary process is just a farce, and it's going to leave a very sorry taste in our mouths.

    By Anonymous Floyd the Barber, At 14 February, 2008 12:31  

  • The role of the delegates is to support the candidate that has the most DEMOCRATIC support,not including the independents and cross-over republicans. Mr. Wilhelm did great damage in his hypocritical statements this morning. He is gravely mistaken in his view of the superdelegates' role and purpose here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 12:58  

  • Please tell me what renewed case can be made for Michigan and Florida?

    By Anonymous stone621, At 14 February, 2008 13:12  

  • to stone621

    It's easy really, if you want to have a shot at winning Florida and Michigan you seat the delegates. If you don't want to win those states, then don't seat them.

    Very simple.

    By Blogger Blair, At 14 February, 2008 13:31  

  • Blair is right,Obama says those people's votes don't count. Why would they vote for him? If the superdelegates take the vote counts into consideration, they could argue that they were counted. Obama would have to really sweep every state in a landslide to win the nomination in that case. As it is, discounting the non-Democratic votes puts Hillary out front. Fairness favors Hillary in every scenario and Obama is unethical in arguing against every vote counting. It's nearly checkmate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 13:41  

  • No matter who wins, there's going to be a whole bunch of people very unhappy and bitter about the end result. Don't expect Clinton or Obama to withdraw, since neither can get to the magic number without some party leaders making up their minds on whether Fla or Mich delegates should be seated. It's shaping up to be another 2000 election for the dems, this time in the primaries!

    By Anonymous Floyd the Barber, At 14 February, 2008 14:11  

  • Rubbish - Obama is not saying that FL and MI voters do not count. The rules are the rules and to change them for one candidates favor is unfair and un-American. Obama was not even on the ballot in MI so there is no way the delegates can be seated as the result stands. Does this issue really effect November? Are we saying that now the GOP nomination is wrapped up that GOP voters in NC will not have a chance to decide things so they will stay home?? It has usually be the case that most states do not matter in the nomination and that does not effect the General Election. Anyway the Dems do not need FL to win in November.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 14 February, 2008 14:31  

  • If you're going to change one rule, why stop there? Perhaps we should override state laws about open primaries and count only votes from registered Democrats. Perhaps we should exclude votes from counties that have a greater than 25% AA population, on the reasoning that they're voting on race, not merit. Or maybe seat delegates from states with total populations in excess of 5.0 MM. The possibilities are limitless.

    This issue arises because Clinton now sees those delegates as her path to salvation. Bond's statement about disenfranchising AA voters is hog-wash - it was a prophylactic move to neutralize resentment in the AA community about rigging the vote against Barack, something Sharpton saw through in a nano second.

    If you want to split this party wide open, then consider a convention where Obama enters with a healthy lead only to lose the vote because Rules permitted FL and MI to be seated. Ironically, the saving grace may be the super-delegates, whom many of us have been castigating. Some of them are objective enough to understand what damage this will do, and may lend their weight against seating these delegations with full votes.

    Of course, for the Clintons its my way or the highway, as usual. If they can't have it, they'll make sure no-one else will.

    By Anonymous zoot, At 14 February, 2008 16:59  

  • Of course they need Florida! Obama and Edwards were on the ballot in Mich. until they removed themselves. All the superdelegates need to do is tally the vote estimates of those states, not the delegates,and vote on the basis of who Democrats picked nationwide like their supposed to do. No problem with that method unless you're not happy with the rules and want to change them. Obama supporters seem to like changing the rules when it suits them, don't they. The superdelegates are there to balance against outside influence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 17:05  

  • I think we can all agree that the solution to this problem lies not with a "patch" like the superdelegate system, but with standardized closed primaries in every state and a fair distribution of delegates that are all pledged. Couple that with a mandatory set of dates for the voting and we're set. No more tinkering and tampering. NM just came in and shows us pretty clearly how 9,000 illegal provisional ballots can screw up the system for nine days.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 17:51  

  • Actually the Dems do not strictly speaking need Florida in the GE. Kerry would have won with just Ohio, or Iowa (Gore had it in 2000) plus Colorado which is a purple state. Now VA is also trending Democratic. So whilst having FL is nice it is not essential. Nice but not essential.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 14 February, 2008 18:34  

  • Just who is changing the rules? The DNC said that Fla and Mich would not count because they went against party rules and thus no delegates would be awarded! Period. Now Clinton's campaign wants those delegates seated. Not going to happen. Nobody says those voters in those 2 states don't count and the voters know that. They are not stupid. Clinton is going to lose in Wisc. and beyond because Obama has become a movement.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 14 February, 2008 19:51  

  • Telling the superdelegates that they should represent independents instead of Democrats or trying to get rid of them altogether is changing the rules. They need to stick to their jobs of voting with Democrats.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 20:00  

  • If Clinton doesn't have the majority support of Democrats then the superdelegates will vote for Obama. If she does then they go with her. It's a failsafe against a hostile takeover of the process. Their decision is still independent of the Fla. and Mich. problem. As it stands, the nomination goes to Hillary. If the "movement" can carry more Democrats and not just independents then Obama can win. If his momentum fizzles he's got no chance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 14 February, 2008 20:39  

  • It's VOTERS who count, no matter who they are, who voted in the various primaries. If the state parties opened the vote to independents then that is part of the vote. And all the votes should count. What do you think the purpose was for allowing independents to vote in the Dem primaries? To EXPAND the base! (But Fla and Mich don't count according to DNC rules)

    By Anonymous stone621, At 14 February, 2008 22:52  

  • Obama carried more registered Democrats than Clinton in Maryland, DC and Virginia. His strength with independants and Republicians will help in November.

    Also the DNC is not saying FL and MI do not count. Those states choose on purpose - they knew the consequences, so they should take responsibility. The ironic thing is that if they had kept their primaries where they were they would have been more influential - note Ohio and PA now.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 15 February, 2008 07:54  

  • And the superdelegates were made to protect the party against the effect of expanding the base. The rules giveth and the the rules taketh away. You can't effectively argue against them either way. Obama is foolish for trying,just as Clinton would be to push for Fla. and Mich. We'll see how the balance is struck by the convention. Btw, the base is not the base until they all re-register.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 07:55  

  • As Guy stated,he's carried more democrats lately. If that continues the superdelegates won't be a problem will they?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 07:57  

  • The super delegates will go with the winner, no matter who. It just so happens that it will be Barack.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 15 February, 2008 13:48  

  • stone621-I hope you don't have a gambling problem. You do realize that "sure winner" thing is a sucker's bet for bookies to make their bread and butter. Your certainty works against you. The more I hear you say that,the more I lean towards a Hillary victory.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 18:29  

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