Obama passes Clinton in first national polls, but read them with caution

Get ready for a never-ending series of Superbowl metaphors over the next 48 hours, whether playing on come backs or on the underdog victory. Quinnipiac already threw one in in its poll release this morning: "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama could make it a fourth quarter surprise for Sen. Hillary Clinton..." Not that the analogy really works with yesterday's game since the Giants went in the fourth quarter with a lead. And with that, two new national polls released this morning have Obama passing Clinton for the first time nationally, an undoubtedly significant measure 24 hours from what has become a quasi-national primary.

  • CNN/Opinon Research shows Obama ahead of Clinton 49% to 46%, a lead well within the margin of error but 49% is by far the highest Obama has ever gotten in a national poll.
  • Among Republicans, McCain is hardly looking back, ahead 44% to 29% for Romney and 18% for Huckabee.

  • A Cook Political Reports's survey shows Obama ahead 43% to 37%. McCain is ahead by 15% here again, 39% to 24% with Huckabee at 18%.
A note of caution is required about these national polls, as perfectly summarized by Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal. What these polls are measuring is not the vote of those who will go the polls on Tuesday, but the preference of Democrats nationwide. Now, not only will "only" 22 states vote on Tuesday, but many of them (like Colorado and Minnesota) will hold low turnout caucuses, making the national polls even more irrevelevant. Furthermore, yesterday's CBS poll shows that, while Obama and Clinton are tied at 41% nationally, Clinton leads 49% to 31% in February 5th states. That subsample has a large margin of error, but keep the possibility of such a discrepancy in mind.

That said, these national polls are useful to measure trendlines, and they are unmistakably a significant Obama momentum that is showing no sign of subsiding and that is threatening to overtake Clinton across the board. More than a traditional primary, this race is starting to look like the state of senatorial elections a week before Election Day, as a small uptick for one party tends to throw almost all the toss-up Senate races in one party's lap (that was true in 00, 02, 04 and 06). If CNN and Cook's numbers hold, we will be in for a big Obama night; but many pollsters are not being that optimistic just yet (starting with Mason-Dixon or even CBS's February 5th numbers) and a minuscule uptick by Clinton could allow her to sweep the Super Tuesday states. And given how dire her situation is said to be now, even the minimal survival scenario for her could come to be described as a victory (just as New Hampshire).

And with that let's turn to some state polls which are obviously the best indicator of where things are heading Tuesday, starting with a new Suffolk poll of Massachusetts:

  • Suffolk shows Romney comfortably ahead in his home state, 50% to 37%. But remember that Massachusetts is not winner-take-all, and is one of the only states in the GOP side that awards its delegates proportionally. Margin will matter here.
  • Among Democrats, it's a toss-up with Obama up 46% to 44%. That is a massive improvement for Obama who was trailing in this state as of 10 days ago, and it can obviously be attributed to Kennedy's endorsement.
We have had very few Massachusetts polls so it is hard to know exactly what the dynamic is here. The previous two polls had Clinton up by widely differing margins.

Next, we have the very important state of Georgia, which is one of the essential states Romney has to do well in:

  • Strategic Vision shows Romney is trailing McCain by 2%, 31% to 29%, with Huckabee at 26%. Those two points mean the difference between no statewide delegates and 33 of them.
  • Among Democrats, Obama confirms that Georgia is his strongest state with Illinois, and leads 49% to 27%.
And that leads us to the Tri-State area and three new polls that show some tight races:

  • Clinton cannot afford to lose New Jersey, and a Zogby poll this morning had her tied at 43%. Now, Quinnipiac has her leading 48% to 43%. The Clinton camp should be reassured that they still have a lead, but consider how much Obama has caught up in less than two weeks, as the January 23rd poll had him down 49% to 32%.
  • Among Republicans, Quinnipiac shows McCain poised to take all of the state's delegates, and leading 52% to 30% against Romney.

  • Strategic Vision's New Jersey poll has McCain up by an even more massive 55% to 25% and it also shows Clinton holding on to a thin lead, 47% to 41%.

  • And that leaves us with New York, where the Quinnipiac survey shows Clinton ahead 53% to 39%, whlie McCain is up 54% to 22%! More than any other decline, it is her inability to open up a big margin in her home state that will cost Clinton a significant number of delegates that she cannot afford to lose at this point.
One last note on bizarre external factor that could affect the Democratic race: Two Alabama counties voted last Wednesday because Election Day is Fat Tuesday. Their votes are sealed until tomorrow night. But this is one state where the clock was not ticking in Obama's favor. John Edwards only dropped out on Wednesday, and Alabama was one of the only state in which his departure clearly helped Clinton, since Edwards got nothing among the black vote and a significant portion of the white vote; and the vote in these counties before Edwards's withdrawal was announced on the ballot in these counties could potentially cost Hillary a few crucial votes if the contest is close.

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  • The final Super Tuesday Survey USA polls for Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are as follows for the Republicans:


    8% Huckabee
    56% McCain
    23% Romney
    4% Paul
    3% Other
    6% Undecided


    7% Huckabee
    54% McCain
    25% Romney
    6% Paul
    3% Other
    6% Undecided


    7% Huckabee
    52% McCain
    30% Romney
    6% Paul
    3% Other
    3% Undecided

    For the Dems, Hillary’s in trouble in CT but not necessarily NY and NJ according to Survey USA:


    56% Clinton
    38% Obama
    4% Other
    3% Undecided


    52% Clinton
    41% Obama
    4% Other
    3% Undecided


    46% Clinton
    48% Obama
    3% Other
    3% Undecided

    and IL (the Obama-nation’s home state):

    30% Clinton
    66% Obama
    3% Other
    1% Undecided

    By Anonymous Steve, At 04 February, 2008 13:53  

  • I think somebody is grumpy their team lost hehe just kidding keep up the good work!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 February, 2008 16:38  

  • Obama's speech (October, 2002):

    Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

    The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.

    My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

    I don't oppose all wars.

    After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

    I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

    What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

    That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

    Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

    He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

    But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

    I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

    I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

    So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

    Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

    The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not - we will not - travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 February, 2008 17:08  

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