Wednesday polls: The battle for independents, and Kentucky is Clinton country

After 2 days filled with polls from Indiana and North Carolina, only one primary poll was released today. SUSA polled Kentucky for the third time, and confirms that this could be one of the biggest Clinton states:

  • Clinton now leads Obama 63% to 27%. Two weeks ago, the margin was identical: 62% to 26%.
  • Confirming that Obama's toughest region in the country is the Appalachians, he loses Eastern Kentucky 84% to 10%, implying there is a risk Obama might not be viable in at least one district.
If Hillary Clinton is still in the race after May 6th, it could mean two very rough weeks for Obama as results in West Virginia on the 13th and Kentucky on the 20th aren't likely to look very good for him. The demographics of these states will allow Clinton, if she lives up to the potential of this SUSA poll, to further her argument that Obama is too weak among white blue-collar voters to win the general election. Whether or not that hurts Obama among superdelegates, such conversation would continue to put him on the defensive.

National polls confirm that Clinton has found a second life since her Pennsylvania primary. Today's Gallup poll has Clinton edging out Obama 47% to 46% for the second day in a row; it had been quite a while Clinton had been on top two consecutive days. And Fox News's latest poll released today has Clinton leading 44% to 41%. These polls are obviously useless measures, since most states have already voted by now; but they still hint at the mood of the electorate and the two candidates' momentum.

Meanwhile, a series of general election surveys confirms how difficult it is to establish electability comparisons:

  • Fox News finds Clinton edging out McCain nationally, 45% to 44%; Obama trails 46% to 43%. Among independents, a group Obama typically does better in, Clinton now performs better but McCain beats them both (by 4% against Clinton, by 10% against Obama).
  • Interestingly, an Obama-Clinton ticket would beat a McCain-Romney ticket 47% to 41%, suggesting that Democrats would have an edge if they can present a united front.
  • Update: A new New York Times poll was just released. It shows Obama leading Clinton 46% to 38% in the primary but it also shows Clinton running better in the general, leading McCain 48% to 43% while Obama and McCain are tied at 45%.
  • A poll taken in AZ by Arizona State, meanwhile, finds McCain in single-digits against Obama, leading 47% to 38%. He leads against Clinton by a wider 53% to 37%.
  • Finally, a somewhat surprising poll by Monmouth University from New Jersey finds McCain trounced by both candidates. He trails Obama 56% to 32% and Clinton 52% to 38%. The main difference between the two candidates is their strength among independents, as Clinton leads by 1% and Obama by 17%.
Most polls taken in New Jersey suggest a close race; the latest poll prior to this one has both Democrats ahead by 5% and McCain has been able to remain very competitive in Northeastern states. This poll thus looks to overstate the Democrats' advantage, but it still stands as a reminder of how tough the Garden State still is for Republicans; they seem to waste a lot of money only two years for very little rewards.

Meanwhile, the results in Arizona confirm that McCain starts clearly ahead and it would probably make little sense for Democrats to spend resources here; but I would not be surprised if the race ends up being more competitive here than the conventional wisdom suggests. You might remember that McCain did not even break 50% on February 5th, besting Romney by 12%; McCain seems to have some problems in his home state.

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