3.27.2008

Why North Carolina is dangerous ground for Clinton, and why Puerto Rico gets trickier for Obama

The only primary survey these past 2 days is Insider Advantage's North Carolina survey, and it comes to confirm PPP's finding on Wednesday. Obama can hope to strike a deathly blow to the Clinton campaign right here on May on 6th:

  • Obama is leading 49% to Clinton's 34%.
  • The pollster points out that there is a slight movement among white voters away from Hillary and towards the undecided vote.
North Carolina has become almost more crucial to the nomination fight than Pennsylvania at this point. This contest resembles the series of primaries in the second half of February (Virginia, Washington, ...) in that Obama is favored to win; but the way in which he wins could be decisive. Clinton's only path to the nomination is to build such momentum throughout May and early June that she gives the remaining uncommitted superdelegates pause. This requires her:

  • not losing any state by a significant margin, as that would automatically undermine any momentum-setting argument; and her
  • handily winning the demographics that have been reluctant to support Obama, namely white men and downscale voters.
Obama could put an end to Clinton's comeback in North Carolina by preventing her from satisfying those two requirements. If he wins the state big, Clinton would be hard pressed to portray herself as the candidate voters have come to settle on by the end of the campaign. Also, if he stays close or even wins among North Carolina whites (in other words Southern whites, among which he has come in at disastrous numbers in states like Mississippi and South Carolina), Clinton will find it that much more difficult to agree to superdelegates that Obama cannot be trusted to win the general election.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico made news today as the Governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, was indicted of 19 counts of campaign finance violations. If the nomination is still in play by June 1st, Puerto Rico is expected to play a major role in deciding how the race proceeds since it has many delegates to offer to the winner. Most of Puerto Rico's establishment is expected to rally behind Hillary Clinton. In fact, Governor Vila, who had endorsed Obama, was the Illinois Senator's main hope to contest the state by helping him with his own political machine and networks.

Besides the fact that Vila is a superdelegate and that Obama would lose a vote if Vila has to resign before the end of August, it is evident that an indicted politician has much less time and ability to move votes and use a machine, and this will make Obama's Puerto Rico climb that much steeper. Puerto Rico is the last major contest to be held (Montana and South Dakota vote on June 3rd, but they do not award many delegates), and Clinton would love to go out on a bang. However, it woud be hard for her to use the results her to convince superdelegates that she is more electable given that Puerto Rico cannot vote in the general election.

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