Heading into Super Tuesday, California stays a question mark

The big Democratic prize on February 5th is no doubt California. And it is also the biggest quesiton mark, as there has barely been any polling from the state over the past week. No one really knows how much Obama has risen and whether he is in a position to win the state.

Obama has long been credited with a great organization in California, as his campaign knew that the state was the large Super Tuesday state in which his campaign was the most equipped to do well in. Now, Obama is benefiting from a perfect storm of endorsements (the LA Times, La Opinion, the country's biggest Spanish-language newspaper). Obama is also benefiting from some unions who were supporting Edwards now migrating to him, in particular California SEIU. We saw in Nevada that last-minute union endorsements can't really accomplish that much since there isn't enough time to organize members, but it's better to have a labor group for you then against you.

Obama is also milking Ted Kennedy's support, especially among the Latino community. Granted, Ted Kennedy did not win the 1968 California Democratic primary as claimed by the French newspaper Le Monde in a gigantic journalistic confusion between two Kennedy brothers; but Ted is also very popular among Hispanics. If Obama can keep it close among Latinos, he should be in very good shape come Tuesday as exit polls in Florida and Nevada and polls in February 5th states have revealed that a lot of Clinton's advantage is coming from Hispanic support.

Another factor playing in Obama's favor is the fact that California Democrats hold an open primary while the Republican primary is closed. That assymetrical set-up means that independents who want to vote will have to do so in the Democratic primary, which is a huge boost for Obama who does much better among independents than registered Democrats. In previously voting states, Obama has had to compete with McCain for the independent vote, and one of the big reasons that he lost in New Hampshire was that independents decided to vote in the GOP contest at the last minute and pushed McCain over the top there.

Yet, there is no reason to count out Hillary Clinton, and she still has to be deemed the favorite in the Tuesday primary here. For one, a large part of the electorate (up to 25% according to some estimates) voted prior to Kennedy's endorsement and this week's Obama surge, and that 25% most probably gave Clinton a large majority. That means Obama needs to win the Tuesday poll by a sizable margin to pull out a victory. Second, there is no evidence for now that Clinton has declined among the Hispanic vote, and that should help her to hold on to her lead here.

In fact, there is a whole series of Super Tuesday states where no one really knows what is going on as not many people are paying attention and no public polls are available. What happens in places like Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota could help determine who comes out with a delegate lead. Obama traveled to Idaho today and was received by a huge crowd who was no doubt grateful that someone is visiting their overshadowed state. Idaho is holding a caucus on Tuesday, and Obama is hoping to do well in this series of caucus-holding red states.

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  • Good analysis. I voted early in Ca. and for Obama. Let's go FORWARD, not BACKWARD. We need a clean break with the past and Sen. Obama has the best chance against McCain who is also very much in the past.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 02 February, 2008 19:23  

  • McCain will be very hard for HC or Obama to beat.

    I don't think HC can do it. And Obama has a 50/50 shot at best.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 February, 2008 19:51  

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