2.25.2008

Clinton loses her Texas lead, but what exactly would constitute "defeat"?

Polls released this morning suggested Clinton was able to stay afloat in March 4th states, but I did warn that that batch did not contain any numbers from Texas, which is shaping to be the most difficult state for Clinton. Now, new polls released this afternoon suggest a very troubled road away for the New York Senator in the Lone Star State, and don't forget that a loss here could spell the end of her career.

To make matters worse for Hillary Clinton, the unions that have newly endorsed Obama seem to be determined to boost the Illinois Senator. UFCW has a new ad running on his behalf in Ohio, and Marc Ambinder reports that SEIU looks ready to spend more than $700,000 on helping him win Ohio and Texas. Given that one of Obama's main weaknesses has been blue-collar voters, union efforts could help him make inroads in Clinton's constituencies. Though the Clinton campaign is mocking Obama for welcoming this help less than two months after he blasted Edwards for receiving independent help by unions, which Obama dismissed as special interest "Washington money." (Clinton has done a very good job of making it difficult for Edwards to jump in the race and endorse Obama.)

Two Ohio polls, first, paint a contrasting picture:

  • PPP shows a very tight race, 50% to 46% in Clinton's favor. PPP notes that GOP and independent voters are flooding the Democratic primary now that the GOP contest is over and supporting Obama 80% to 13% and 64% to 33% respectively. Clinton is ahead among registered Dems 56% to 40%.

  • ARG, meanwhile, shows Clinton ahead 49% to 39%, in line with what we saw this morning.
In Texas, however, Clinton is losing ground:

  • Rasmussen shows a toss-up, 46% for Hillary and 45% for Obama.

  • ARG shows Obama way ahead, 50% to 42% -- it is worth noting that ARG was the only pollster to have Obama up already a week ago (48-42), which suggests that their model turnout significantly differs other pollsters'. ARG results in most states have looked like outliers.

  • And finally, in what is perhaps the most important poll of the day, CNN shows Obama up 50% to 46% in Texas, an improvement from Clinton's 50-48 lead last week. While Obama's lead is within the margin of error, the trendline in his favor is confirmed by the other polls and he has one more week to build on his momentum. CNN does point out that Clinton's support among Latinos is holding firm.
Keep in mind that the primary vote only decides 2/3rds of the delegates, and that most estimations hold that Clinton would have to win by a significant margin to get a delegate lead in those 2/3rds given the Texas allocation rules. A large primary win for Hillary in Texas is looking increasingly unlikely... And then Clinton will also have to face the caucus results, which could be disastrous for her in Washington state is any example (she lost the primary by 3% and the caucus by 36%), getting Obama a significant portion of the third of delegates awarded through the caucuses. Bill Clinton is already pushing back on the caucuses (in a strategy the CLinton campaign started in the days following Iowa): "The doors open at 7 and they close at 7:15. It would be tragic if Hillary were to win this election in the daytime and somebody were to come in at night and take it away."
What constitutes a loss for Clinton in Texas, or what constitutes a victor? Does she need a primary win, a primary delegate lead or an overall delegate lead? Will she lose if she get the first but not the rest? Will she be deemed the winner but not by enough to continue, and would she use a win on points to get out of the race gracefully?

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