General election polls: Obama strengthens his hand, Clinton struggles

A week ago, Barack Obama's poll numbers had undoubtedly plunged, as surveys were showing him weakening in primary and general election match-ups with remarkable consistency. But this was in the heat of the Wright controversy. Since then, Obama's speech helped the Senator stop the bleeding. But the question now is whether he has regained some of the lost ground.

Two primary polls released 48 hours ago suggested he was back to his pre-Wright form, jumping to a huge lead in North Carolina and looking up in Pennsylvania. Now, four general election polls released today show him posting the type of numbers he needs. In fact, it is Hillary Clinton who is weakening and looking in difficulty in all four polls. First, a national poll from NBC:

  • Barack Obama is leading John McCain by a narrow 44% to 42% while the Republican edges out Clinton 46% to 44%.
  • In the primary match-up, Obama and Clinton are tied at 45%.
  • In a confirmation of yesterday's Gallup poll, NBC finds that about 20% of Obama and Clinton supporters would vote for McCain if their candidate did not win the nomination.
But the most interesting number from this poll is Hillary Clinton's favorability number: 37%! This is the lowest she has ever been in in an NBC poll since early 2001, two months after she left the White House. This includes a 12% drop among African Americans, who appear to be blaming her for the Wright scandal despite the fact that she did not say anything about it until 2 days ago. Obama's numbers, meanwhile, are slightly in decline but less dramatically so, though it is worth noting that Obama loses some ground among independents and Republicans.

Meanwhile, we also get three state polls this morning -- all from blue states that Kerry and Gore both carried:

  • In California, a PPI poll shows that neither Democrats manage a double-digit lead against McCain. Obama leads 49% to 40% and Clinton is up by a much narrower 46% to 43%.
  • In Connecticut, Quinnipiac released a survey showing Obama is leading 52% to 35%, including 45% to 38% among independents. Clinton only leads 45% to 42% because of a differential among independents: She trails 48% to 36%.
  • In Oregon's Rasmussen poll, finally, Obama is also stronger (though this one is less surprising, considering WA and OR have always been two states in which Obama has looked better). He leads McCain 48% to 42% while Clinton trails 46% to 40%.
It is worth noting that it is not coastal blue states that will determine whether Obama has successfully turned the page of the Wright controversy, so these 3 state polls are maybe not the most useful in that direction. But they still suggest that McCain won't have that easy a time contesting a state like Connecticut in which the Republican is placing hopes. Oregon looks tight, but it has not been a reliably blue state in past cycles. This morning's most worrisome numbers for Democrats come from California. A single-digit lead is certainly not enough to keep McCain away from the state, and the last thing Democrats want is to have to play defense in their #1 must-win state.

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