Friday polls: Preparing for May 20th, and new results from Alaska and Maine's Senate races

The political world's attention has turned away from the Democratic primaries -- to the great frustration of the 5 states and territories that have not gotten a chance to vote. So close to mattering, Kentucky and Oregon will still decide the conditions in which the Democratic candidates finish the race, how much talk there is of Obama's general election vulnerabilities and also -- and this could obviously prove important -- whether Clinton is at all in a position to drag this thing to the convention. Two new polls from ARG suggest Clinton could have a very good day on May 20th, when Kentucky and Oregon hold their primaries:

  • In Oregon, ARG finds Obama to be ahead only 50% to 45%.
  • Oregon's primary is entirely mail-in and 58% of respondents said they had already turned in their ballot. Among those, Clinton and Obama are tied at 49%. Note that this is the second poll in which Clinton is tied with Obama among this group of voters but trailing overall (SUSA was the first a few days ago) suggesting the Obama camp might be demobilizing.
  • Meanwhile, ARG shows Clinton crushing Obama 65% to 29% in Kentucky, including 73% of white voters. Note that Edwards is once again on the ballot here so we will see if he can repeat his West Virginia exploits.
In the list of "what if"s that must be haunting the Clinton campaign is something they had no control over and that no one really thought would matter until the morning of February 6th -- what if West Virginia and Kentucky were scheduled to vote in the latter half of February instead of, say, Maryland and Louisiana. Or Virginia and Wisconsin. Would Obama have built the same unstoppable momentum, putting Clinton in an untenable position in the run-up to March 4th? The quickness with which the race went from "this is a pure toss-up" on February 6th to "is there any path for Clinton to win the nomination" on February 13th was one of the most remarkable stretches of time of this entire campaign.

Meanwhile, general election polls were released today:

  • First, a Strategic Vision poll from Georgia shows McCain leading Obama by a 54% to 40%.
This is not as huge a margin as Republicans can hope, but it's hard to see a path for Obama to make this state competitive for now, despite talk of that in some Democratic circles. Georgia has been one of the states that has been trending the most Republican in the past few years. It was the only state where Republicans got close to winning a Dem-held seat in 2006 (not one, but two!) and consider that this same Strategic Vision poll shows that the leading Democrat in the senatorial primary is someone who professes to have voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004... Also:

  • A Rasmussen poll from Kansas shows McCain not trembling against either Democrat in this deep red state. He leads Obama 55% to 34% and Clinton 53% to 39%.
  • A Rasmussen poll from Maine shows both Democrats leading McCain 51% to 38%, a good margin in a sometimes-tight state where a close victory would mean the loss of an electoral vote.
  • Also, a Rasmussen poll from Washington confirms that WA will be less competitive this year than in 2000 (it wasn't at the front of Dem worries in 04). Obama leads 51% to 40%, Clinton 47% to 42% -- very similar margins to yesterday's SUSA poll.
  • Finally, Alaska is the big surprise of the day as polls continue to show a single-digit general election race in what is supposed to be a Republican blowout. Research 2000 finds McCain leading 49% to 42% (Clinton trails 55% to 37%) and Rasmussen finds McCain leading 50% to 41% -- slightly larger but still underwhelming.
Alaska's tightness is the only shocking finding of these numbers, though McCain was certainly hoping to keep both Washington and Maine closer due to his appeal among independents. Maine has been a state where both Kerry and Gore have feared losing one of the districts and thus an electoral vote (ME and NE are the only non-winner-take-all states) and Democrats would not like to have to spend money to defend just one electoral vote come the fall campaign.

Finally, three down-the-ballot polls, both from Rasmussen, give something to spin to both parties:

  • In Washington, Christine Gregoire has opened a surprising 52% to 41% lead against challenger Dino Rossi in the gubernatorial race. All polls of this race have shown a complete toss-up, with the animosity of the 2004 campaign translating to fixed positions in 2008. So until there is confirmation that there has been movement, consider this to be an outlier.
  • Meanwhile, in Maine's Senate race, Rasmussen finds Susan Collins leading Tom Allen by 10 percent, 52% to 42%. This is down from a 16% lead last month.
  • Finally, a new Rasmussen poll from Alaska shows Mark Begich leading Ted Stevens 47% to 45% -- a confirmation of the trouble Stevens is in after a Research 2000 poll showed him trailing by 5% earlier this week. The previous Rasmussen poll showed Stevens leading by 1%.
It's hard to know what to make of the Maine Senate race. This has been one of the Democrats' top target since the beginning. But a series of polls in the fall showing Collins with huge leads against Allen showed that this would not be a repeat of Rhode Island's 2006 race and that Collins had a much more solid base among independents and Democrats (a base any Republican Senator needs in Maine). In this poll, she gets 34% of Democrats and the two candidates are tied among independents. Also, this poll finds her with a 70% favorability rating, including 32% saying they have a very favorable impression of her. And Tom Allen is no unknown...

Yet, in a Democratic year in a Democratic state with a strong candidate, Democrats are not out of the running yet. A 10 percent lead is still not enough to make this a top-tier race, but it looks like the increase of partisanship could be making Collins more vulnerable, and the disparity between her favorability rating and her vote percentage is telling of the same difficulty that plagued Chaffee in Rhode Island. But she remains above 50 percent so we will wait for confirmation that there is any tightening at all here.

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  • Taniel - I am not so sure the Obama will be demobilising if these polls are accurate. They still have time to get their voters out since it is by mail. They have proven very effective at using early voting in states like North Carolina to help make up for any losses on voting day itself.

    Regarding the "what ifs" I am not so sure the nomination slipped away in those seven days in February. I think it took at least the whole of February as well as Clinton barely winning TX (which dmeograpohically was favorable to her and she lost the caucus there) and winning OH by only 9% (reduced from 10% due to recent counting of provisional ballots).
    The main what-ifs are why didn`t Clinton take Obama out before Iowa, why didn`t she finsih him off on Super Tuesday, why didn`t she plan to go on after Super Tuesday, why couldn`t she win TX and OH convincingly.

    Alos I disagree about how "unfair" it is that 5 states will not be paid much attention to now. In the GOP race the majority of the states have been irrelevant (just ask OH, PA, NC etc) and it is normal in primaries for the race to be wrapped up before all 50 states, plus DC and assorted other territories have voted.

    Kentucky is not a key state by any means. It has few EV's and Democrats have multiple other states they can and need to win before Kentucky.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 16 May, 2008 14:07  

  • I'm also very catious over the feeling that Obama's base is demobilsing. If Clinton wins Kentucky big as expected and gets within single digits in Oregan, it will give Obama alot of bad press, especially since he wants to declare victory on May 20th. The people polled may be 58% put in but I doubt that this is true for the elecotorate at large, altrough Obama may not wanna to write of Clinton just yet. Yes even if he loses Oregan he will still be the likely nominee, but it will make it more likely that Clinton will go beyond June 3rd and therfore hurt his ability to unite the party to take on McCain.

    Kansas and Georgia are no suprises, althrough I do think Obama could help down ballot Dems in georgia by increasing the black turnout. Alaska, definitly becoming more competive but McCain still has an edge.

    On the washington gov race, I agree that it's a outlier unless other polls comfirm this. Gregorie may indeed be getting stronger but not so much that she wins comfortably.

    Alaska sen race: no suprise again, enough polls have passed that in my mind Begich has a better chance in this state than Franken has in MN.

    The Maine senate race, on the other hand, is a little suprising. One of the biggest dissappointments is that Collins was so ahead despite having a well known and popular challanger. Allen being behind by 10 points isn't enough to make this a top tier race, but according to Rammusen his main issue is to shore up Democratic support, as he is at pariety with Collins when it comes to independnets. As Maine is likely to vote for Obama this november, Allen has a good chance to convince these democrats to vote for him. This is unlike many of the conservative southern states in which Democrats consistenly vote for the Republican nominee (Arkansas, West Virgina recently, Oklahoma for a longer period of time.)

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 16 May, 2008 16:24  

  • OR poll average of the last 5, without repeaters (ARG, PPP, Portland Tribune, SUSA, Rasmussen):

    Obama: 52.6%
    Clinton: 40.2%
    Undecided/Other: 7.2%

    Margin: Obama: +12.4%

    Assuming that the undecideds go with the same trend and adding the usual 2% snap-back effect for the person in the lead, then, if the primary were held tomorrow and all the votes had arrived, the prediction would be:

    Obama: 58.6%
    Clinton: 41.4%
    Margin: Obama +17.2

    His margin average of 12.2 is 4.2 HIGHER than it was in April. He has improved over April.

    NIX demobilizing. ARG has had funny, whacked out numbers the entire season. Forget ARG.

    By Blogger Mark, At 16 May, 2008 18:30  

  • You wrote "its hard to see a path" for Obama in Georgia, but it would be interesting to see how much the poll numbers close if the question were Obama (D), McCain (R), Barr (L). Then with an Obama-Nunn ticket...

    By Blogger SirDespard, At 16 May, 2008 18:51  

  • "Then with an Obama-Nunn ticket..."

    O Please God Do NOT let Obama choose an Old Coot to be his running mate!

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 17 May, 2008 08:40  

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