2.09.2008

It's Election Day, again: Can Clinton win a state this week-end?

Three states are voting today on the Democratic side, with one primary (Louisiana) and two caucuses (Washington and Nebraska). Tomorrow, another caucus will announce its results in Maine.

Barack Obama is favored to win the February primaries, leading to March 4th's Ohio and Texas. A poll yesterday had Clinton leading in Wisconsin, but a few more will be needed before expectations switch. These next four days are especially difficult for Clinton, as she is heading to a potentially disastrous Potomac primary on Tuesday. Two new polls from Maryland and Virginia were released this morning, and they show how dire the situation could be in Clinton come Wednesday morning:

  • Rasmussen shows Obama crushing Clinton in Maryland, 57% to 31%. Black voters split 82-12 in Obama's favor, while whites split equally between the two.
  • The numbers are barely better in Virginia, where Rasmussen shows Obama up 55% to 37%, a result very much consistent with the SUSA and Insider Advantage polls we saw yesterday. Obama leads among white men in this Rasmussen poll, and Clinton manages a slightly higher proportion of the black vote, 22%.
These two surveys underscore just how important it is for Clinton to (1) keep the margins relatively closer come Tuesday and (2) get a win this week-end among the four voting states to prevent a seven-state sweep by Obama heading into Wisconsin.

But can Clinton deliver even one victory? Judging by the results on Tuesday, both Louisiana and Nebraska look good for Obama, who did very well both in the deep South and in a red-state caucus. Louisiana's is attributing 56 delegates, and polls close at 9pm ET (and it is a closed primary). In Nebraska, there are 24 delegates at stake and caucuses will take place all throughout the day, the earliest starting at 11:00am ET and the last closing at 9:30pm ET. Clinton did make an effort in both of these states, for example running an ad in Nebraska touting Bob Kerrey's endorsement.

Washington is a very confusing state: It holds both caucuses (today) and primaries (on the 19th). But the primary will determine no delegate at all and is only a beauty contest. First caucuses begin at 4pm ET, last ones end at 9pm ET. Now, Obama has been organizing in this state much earlier than Clinton, and he has 5 offices. A SUSA poll released this morning shows that only about a third of Democrats who are thinking of voting will participate in the caucuses, and those favor Obama 63% to 33%. Among all voters, they are pretty much tied.

This underscores the difficulty Clinton faces among these caucus states and such a large loss could create a disproportionate allocation of delegates, of which there are 78 at stake. And Clinton has been aggressively pushing the narrative of the undemocratic nature of the caucus process (a sentiment with which I agree, as I wrote at the end of 2007, 10 days before Iowa). From today's New York Times preview:

Mrs. Clinton... suggested that she did not expect to win in Washington, as many of her supporters would be too busy working to break away from their schedules and spend the time to caucus for her.

“If this were a primary, where everybody could vote all day, I’d feel pretty good about it,” she said. “But it’s not. It’s a caucus.”


In the search for an explanation as to why Obama performs so much better in caucus states rather than primary states (the main explanation I gave for now was that Obama actually organized and ran ads in many of Super Tuesday's caucus states whereas Clinton did not), Clinton might have a point here, as her electorate tends to be more working-class than Obama's, so that it is natural to expect her to be more affected by the fact that the caucus system expects you to devote a few hours of your time at a determined hour. That was less of a problem in Iowa and Nevada because the publicity of these contests -- particularly in Iowa -- allowed all campaigns to prepare for caucus night, find people to baby-sit your children, etc.

Clinton's best chance could be tomorrow in the Maine caucuses, a state with few students and with a large working-class electorate. 24 delegates are stake here, so whoever wins will not get a big delegate advantage at all, but it could symbolically prove as important than the other contests given that Obama could use Maine to make life very difficult for Clinton in the coming weeks.

It is also worth noting that the Virgin Islands will also vote today and 3 delegates are at stake. In the situation we are in now where every delegate counts, one candidate will emerge with a small advantage of one delegate (Clinton did in American Samoa).

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5 Comments:

  • Hillary's big problem is that Obama was running TV ads for 9 days before Clinton put up an ad 2 days ago. She spotted him too big an advantage. A win in Maine tomorrow would keep the media from saying Obama has all the momentum. The problem is she will likely get blown out on Tuesday.

    By Blogger BG, At 09 February, 2008 12:10  

  • I don't recall Clinton complaining about the caucus system when it seemed like she was the inevitable nominee. Now it sounds like sour grapes. Maybe the caucus are unfair, just like maybe the electoral college is unfair. But that's the way the election rules are set up, and you can't fault Obama for coming up with a strategy that takes advantage of that.

    The fact is, Clinton thought she was going to be able to walk to the nomination without worrying about caucuses or those pesky little flyover states, and so she basically ignored them until it was too late.

    By Anonymous Fred App, At 09 February, 2008 12:26  

  • I don't recall Clinton complaining about the caucus system when it seemed like she was the inevitable nominee. Now it sounds like sour grapes. Maybe the caucus are unfair, just like maybe the electoral college is unfair. But that's the way the election rules are set up, and you can't fault Obama for coming up with a strategy that takes advantage of that.

    The fact is, Clinton thought she was going to be able to walk to the nomination without worrying about caucuses or those pesky little flyover states, and so she basically ignored them until it was too late.

    By Anonymous Fred App, At 09 February, 2008 12:26  

  • These caucuses that allow republicans to help determine the Democratic nominee are inherently unfair. Hopefully the nominee is the choice of those that end up voting for a Democrat in November. We all can clearly see that the republicans would rather face Obama, despite the polling.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 09 February, 2008 13:37  

  • Taniel:
    From what I hear, the SUSA poll coming out for MD/VA is not too reliable for the methodolgy they used. Its a push button poll and is not really reliable in the details of - registedred voters/age etc

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 09 February, 2008 14:48  

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