SUSA releases wave of competitive general election polls

SUSA released 8 general election polls today, getting it to a total of twelve within 3 days. First, they had shown Iowa and Virginia to be competitive, with Obama looking strong in the former and competitive in the latter, and Clinton struggling in both. In Kansas and New York, SUSA also found Obama running stronger than Clinton (surprisingly in New York), with McCain trailing both candidates in NY and leading them in KS.

Today's wave of polls offers a more complex picture of competitiveness and electability, with McCain competitive in unlikely places (Massachusetts, particularly against Obama for the second poll in a row) and struggling in others, and with Clinton pulling in stronger numbers than her rival more than we have been used to in recent weeks.

As you will see while going through these numbers, both Clinton and Obama have very clear groups among which they are stronger: Clinton outperforms Obama among women and Democrats; Obama among men, blacks and independents. And while one might think that it is more important for the nominee to appeal to independents than to Democrats, to whites than to black in order to win the swing states, that cannot get the Democratic Party very far: The base needs to be secured (and motivated). In Ohio, for example, Obama is stronger than Clinton among independents; but he is so much weaker among registered Dems than Clinton outperforms overall. The same is true in reverse for Clinton's relative weakness among black voters.

Democratic and African-American votes are usually taken for granted by the party's nominee, but it should not just be assumed that Obama and Clinton will post strong numbers come November. After all, John McCain's main asset is that he appeals to Democrats, after all; and while black voters are unlikely to go to McCain they could choose to not turn out, which could prove a very big problem. In other words, either Obama and Clinton would have a lot of work to do to secure the Democratic base, and McCain is well positioned to take advantage of their weaknesses.

And with that, let's look at the numbers:

  • In Ohio, Clinton leads McCain 52% to 42%, while Obama is up 47% to 44%. The difference comes entirely from registered Democrats, which go 85-10 for Clinton but only 71-21 for Obama. Among independents, in fact, Obama is stronger even here, leading 50% to 36% versus 48% to 40% for Clinton.

  • In Missouri, both Democrats are ahead: 51% to 44% for Clinton, 49% to 43% for Obama.

  • In New Mexico, Clinton leads 50% to 45% and Obama does much better, 55% to 40%. This is due both to the male vote (Clinton is tied, Obama leads by 15) and to independents (Obama leads by 5, Clinton trails by 12).

  • The numbers are almost the same in Minnesota, where Clinton leads 49% to 45% but Obama crushes McCain 55% to 40%. Obama runs 20% better among men, and he also does much better among independents.

  • Oregon is another state in which Obama runs stronger, edging out McCain 48% to 47% while Clinton trails 49% to 41%. This is entirely due to the independent vote, which Obama wins 52% to 41% and Clinton trails 54% to 33%.

  • The most surprising numbers come perhaps from Massachusetts, one of the country's bluest state in which McCain is very competitive, trailing 52% to 43% against Clinton and only 48% to 46% against Obama. In the last SUSA poll, McCain actually had a small lead against Obama, whose weakness is due to the female vote (+11 instead of +32 for Clinton).
  • In California, neither Democrat has any trouble dismissing McCain: 58% to 35% for Hillary, 61% to 34% for Obama. The gender difference is astonishing: Clinton gets +39 among women and +6 among men; Obama gets +25 among men and +9 among women.
  • Finally, in Alabama, McCain easily beats both Clinton (57% to 37%) and Obama (58% to 34%). Obama performs much better among blacks (87% against 69% for Clinton) but much weaker among whites (17% versus 26% for Clinton), in one of the only instances of such a racial divide.
Other than Massachusetts, there are no huge surprises in this group of polls, and we can expect the states we are used to thinking as tight to remain so in the coming months, including Ohio. If anything, the Democrats should be really happy about Missouri, a fairly large state in which they have been consistently competitive and which looks ripe for pick-up. The Democratic nominee can certainly hope to reach a majority by winning not a big Bush state like Florida and Ohio but putting together smaller ones, with Missouri and Virginia the obvious suspects at this point (as well as IA and NM, of course, but it is hard to think of those as red).

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