McCain rises and Obama plunges in series of 9 catastrophic polls for Dems

Rarely have I seen this consistent a turnaround in general election polls: In 9 general election polls released today, McCain is on the rise and Obama declines due to his (1) continued weakness among registered Democrats and (2) the departure of many cross-over Republicans and independents who had come to support his candidacy. Also, Clinton's position generally remains stable, suggesting that it is Obama who is weakening more than McCain who is improving.

Obama's plunge looks particularly vertiginous because of how high he was riding in the last two weeks of February, looking competitive in every poll and beating McCain in many reddish states; so some of the trendlines have to be taken with a grain of salt, since they follow an Obama progression. Also, it looked likely that Obama would not keep up his strong levels of support among registered Republicans and independents once the general election campaign began, the GOP nominee was chosen and the two sides became polarized. But the consistency of the numbers suggests that March belongs to McCain.

All the polls I am about to cite follow PPP's Florida release yesterday that showed McCain up 11% in Florida against Obama. Today, two polls from Ohio show the Arizona Senator strengthened in the red state that until recently looked the most promising for Democrats:

  • SUSA shows Clinton leading McCain 50% to 44%, but McCain leads Obama 50% to 43%. Compared to the previous SUSA poll from late February, that's a 4% Clinton drop and a 17% Obama plunge.
  • In a pattern that we will find in most of these polls, Obama is weak among registered Democrats (he gets 66% to Clinton's 80%) and Clinton is weak among blacks (64%). But the shift in numbers is due to independents deserting Obama (down from 60% to 45%) and Republicans moving home (the margin is 12% better for McCain).
  • PPP's poll also brings good news for McCain, who trails Clinton only 45% to 44% but is ahead of Obama 49% to 41%.
  • Here again, Clinton is very weak among blacks (47%) and Obama among registered Democrats (60%).
The same internals and trendlines can be found in other polls from other states:

  • In Kentucky, SUSA finds McCain leading Clinton 53% to 43% and trouncing Obama 64% to 28%. In the past three weeks, Clinton has dropped by 1% and Obama by 15%.
  • McCain actually wins among registered Democrats when paired up against Obama (48% to 41%); Clinton is up 60% to 31%. The gap among registered Republicans has increased by 18% -- with Obama down to 8%. Independents have shifted by 11%.
  • In Missouri, McCain is leading Clinton 48% to 46% -- a 2% improvement for Clinton in the past 3 weeks. But Obama is trailing 53% to 39%, an 8% decline.
  • Obama is winning only 62% of registered Democrats, versus 83% for Clinton. McCain has closed the gap by 17% among that group against Obama.
In all three of the SUSA polls (MO, OH and KY), Obama and Clinton are now running roughly even among registered Republicans and independents, and the difference in their showing is coming from registered Democrats. That suggests that Republicans are starting to look at Obama as an adversary, and no longer as the candidate who finally defeated a Clinton.

Furthermore, the fact that Clinton is weak among blacks but running so far ahead among registered Democrats confirms that it is white Democrats who are right now deserting the Obama, meaning that it is the racial controversies of the past week have taken a toll on him. This is not good news for the hope that the general election could be civil, for this will likely encourage Republicans to not shy away from racial attacks in the coming months. Whether or not Clinton was actually attempting to do that in the past 2 months, it did not work against the Illinois Senator in the primaries (where Democrats were voting, after all) -- which should give comfort to the Obama supporters.

There are more polls showing the same trendlines:

  • In Colorado, Rasmussen released a new poll showing McCain gaining against both Democrats: Obama and McCain are tied at 46% (Obama led by 7% last month) and McCain leads Clinton 50% to 38% (he was up 6% last month).
  • In New Hampshire, Rasmussen shows McCain edging out both Democrats, 46% to 43% against Obama and 47% to 41% against Clinton. A month ago, both Democrats led the Republican, +2 for Clinton and + 7 for Obama.
And add to this two national polls:

  • Gallup's tracking poll finds McCain's posting his largest leads yet, 47% to 43% against Obama and 48% to 45% against Clinton.
  • And Zogby's numbers are particularly depressing for Democrats, as McCain is leading against both Obama 46% to 40% and Clinton 48% to 40%. Last month, Zogby had Obama leading McCain 47% to 40% but McCain trouncing Clinton 50% to 38% (a slight improvement for Clinton, therefore).
The Rasmussen surveys as well as well as Gallup's tracking shows that Clinton is also losing ground against McCain, and while she on average declines much less than Obama the Democratic primaries is taking its toll on both Democrats. Clinton's numbers were disastrous throughout the last weeks of February, which also explains why she is not collapsing that much more.

These numbers should therefore pull Democrats in two direction in the primary context: On the one hand, they undercut Obama's electability argument and support Clinton's claim that there is just much less that could suddenly shift the election against her. On the other hand, the long primary is proving a huge boost for McCain -- an argument against extending the process further and against giving another chance to Clinton. Which argument is the most convincing?

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  • Well I guess Obama should just pack it in and concede to John McCain. Seriously, McCain is old, has a faulty memory and anger management problems. It's eight months until the election, we should just chill a little and he'll give us plenty of poll altering gaffes. Of more interest is why did Jack Murtha jumped on Hillary's bandwagon yesterday, a day when it would have zero news value because of Obama's speach?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 March, 2008 17:04  

  • As I have mentioned before I think McCain will be very hard to beat. It does depend on the events that come up in the next 8 months (further bad economic news, Iraq etc) but McCain was the best candidate the GOP could pick.

    I agree with the comment above that McCain has weaknesses and it is 8 months to go. The Dems when they unite around a candidate in June (it will not be allowed to go on much past the last primary vote) will be able to go on the offensive against McCain and he will lose his free pass. In the meantime it is hard for the Dems - Obama has come down to earth and Clinton is flat lining from a bad February.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 19 March, 2008 19:58  

  • so much for camp obama's arguments that they put deep red states of Kansas, Wyoming, Louisiana and Mississippi in play. They can't even hold it on light-red states.

    As for the bellwether state of Missouri, the 14% deficit of obama is just ghastly

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 March, 2008 22:37  

  • Clinton is not doing much better in the must win blue states and worse in places like Oregon. So it is a wash - this long Democratic primary season is causing harm to the parties chances in November regardless of candidate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 20 March, 2008 08:23  

  • it isnt fair but obama's steady decline has started among majority of american voters who expect their president to be divorced from anger at america and to wear the flag on his lapel and put his hand on his heart and have a spouse who has always been proud of america... hillary has learned the hard way how to survive smears and sexism and still be standing with her patriotism unassailable. they cant take her down further which is why she would beat mccain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 20 March, 2008 14:55  

  • Ummm, it is Reverend Wright who has been making racial attacks, not Republicans. Obviously, you don't get it, Taniel.

    Why would white people be pissed off at people who hate them? Yep, that is an almost impossible question to answer... NOT!

    By Blogger Peter, At 20 March, 2008 23:19  

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