Can Clinton pull off a comeback?

Hillary Clinton knows she needs to make something big happen tomorrow in Ohio and Texas if she wants to stay alive. We are only a few hours from polls opening, and the New York Senator is getting as favorable news as she could have hoped for. She has been left for dead for most of the past week, in striking similarity to the run-up to New Hampshire, but the latest polls open the possibility of that analogy playing out all the way and it is very possible that Clinton could come back from the dead once again tomorrow.

A significant comeback is still very unlikely but it now appears possible, unlike a few days ago. And by comeback I do not mean narrow wins in Ohio and Texas, but also a potentially strong victory in Ohio, again something that looked out of the question a few days ago

  • ARG just released its last polls. In Texas, Clinton has moved ahead 50% to 47%, a 10% swing in 4 days and the first time Clinton is up in an ARG Texas poll since Super Tuesday.
  • But the real story is in Ohio, where ARG's poll (in the field Sunday and Monday) shows Clinton up 56% to 42% -- including a 60% to 38% lead among registered Democrats.

  • Insider Advantage, meanwhile, apologetically shows Clinton leading in Texas, 49% to 44%. Matt Towery, IA's CEO, appears afraid that "this is a lonely and difficult spot for a pollster. However, we have polled thousands of voters in Texas and have yet to show Sen. Obama leading." Such disclaimers are somewhat rare.
  • He adds that this result is obtained in positing the most positive turnout model for the Illinois Senator: "Our weighting is designed to discount Hispanic turnout in areas where historically their turnout has been lighter, and to maximize potential African-American turnout. Even with this model, which we believe to be accurate, though obviously not a perfect situation for Clinton, she leads."
  • Update: Yet another data point demonstrating Clinton's progress comes from Zogby's latest tracking poll. In Texas, Clinton surges by 6% in one day, transforming a 3% deficit into a 3% lead -- her first lead in Texas since Zogby started tracking.
  • In Ohio, the race is now tied at 44% while Obama was up 47% to 45% yesterday.
Combine this with the polls I reviewed this afternoon, with PPP and Univ. of Cincinnati both showing a 9% Clinton lead in Ohio and Suffolk a 12% lead, and other institutes confirming her Texas climb. And then there is Rasmussen's daily tracking poll in which Clinton has regained the advantage nationally for the first time in 3 weeks (albeit only 46% to 45%).

We won't know until tomorrow if Clinton can ride this movement, we can start offering some explanation as to what moved the numbers over the week-end. Mark Penn has been saying that Clinton will recover by Tuesday because of the red phone ad that, he claims, finally raised questions in voters mind about Obama's experience on national security. Clinton might even have made the point a bit too strongly today when she said: "I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

A new ad by Clinton (you can watch it here) repeats a charge Clinton made at last Tuesday's debate -- that Obama was too busy running for president to conduct a single committee hearing on Afghanistan. And it is an effective spot because it uses Obama's own words at the debate. As soon as Obama answered, I thought that his response was weak (he defended himself saying that he became president of the Committee at the beginning of 2007 when he was starting his presidential run) sounded particularly weak, since Clinton's criticism is precisely that he started running too early.

But Obama will certainly not be undone, and he will not let himself go down because of ads. He has the money to respond to whatever Clinton tries against him, and the rapidity of his counter-offensive in that red phone affair displayed that. There must be more at play, and that something could simply be that there has been a much tougher spotlight than usual on Obama as of late, starting with the NAFTA and Canada story is hurting Obama -- and the fact that Clinton's momentum is particularly visible in Ohio supports this explanation.

TNR's Mike Crowley reviews media coverage today and concludes that "this might be the best news cycle she's had in a month." First Read has more details about the rough questions the media subjected Obama to today, in a much more confrontational tone than usual. Overall, it looks to have given Hillary an opening to strike back and keep herself going through March and April. We will know tomorrow evening whether Clinton managed to take advantage of this opening or whether this momentum back towards her is only momentary movement fueled by negative stories that will have faded from voters' consideration by tomorrow.

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  • There has no doubt been higher scrutiny of Obama of late, and many questions raised: nothing of any significance (yet), but lots of little things that raise questions: his relationship with Resko, how he would deal with Kaddafi, his votes in the Illinois legislature, a perception of his being overly ambitious... admittedly some of this is BS, but the air of inevitability that has become attached to him, that he is heading toward becoming the eventual nominee will only magnify further questions. Clinton has benefited from this, but she has also found her stride, it seems, has become less aloof, more likeable... Ohio and Texas may mark a turning point in the campaign.

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 04 March, 2008 10:43  

  • You still have to wonder even if there was a "comeback" (albeit not back to leads she enjoyed 2-3 weeks ago!) how her campaign would fare in November. It has shown disorganisation with different messages, wasting money and not planning far enough ahead. Also Obama hasn`t hit Clinton with anything major such as all the 1990'2 scandals, her fundraising from Norman Hu, tax returns etc - the Republicans will be less forgiving.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 March, 2008 11:17  

  • If Obama loses both these races tonight he is going to have to start hitting Hillary harder than ever before. He has to point out that her and her husband left the party in worse shape after he left office since anytime since the 1920's. They dropped from 259 House seats in 1992 to just 211 in 2000, one of the biggest drops ever over a Presidency.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 March, 2008 15:02  

  • GAME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Senator Clinton isn't going anywhere except to the White House!!!!!!!

    She wins where it's necessary for the Dems and is more competitive with McCain than Obama in swing states.

    Winning undemocratic caucases in RED STATES are admirable but not enough to win the White House. I want the Dems to take back the White House and the only way to do that is with Sen Clinton.

    In addition, Obama has baggage of his own that is being blogged about non-stop on news sites....Rezco, NAFTA, Larry Sinclair, Unpatriotic, Muslim ect. Whether these allegations are true or not (which I believe some of them are not), he is still being hurt by them.

    These are the FACTS, and Obama supporters can spin it anyway they want.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 05 March, 2008 02:18  

  • Clinton didn`t win Virginia or Wisconsin - both swing states and also more EV's than the hallowed Ohio!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 05 March, 2008 18:22  

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