5.01.2008

Obama suffers from worrisome wave of polls

In the first days of the initial Wright controversy back in mid-March, Barack Obama suffered a terrible polling day in which he plunged in a series of 9 catastrophic polls. While today's polls are not quite as traumatizing, Obama is consistently found to be losing ground both against Hillary Clinton and against John McCain, suggesting once again that Obama's support declines the more Wright is in the news. Whether Obama's Tuesday press conference ends up helping him, of course, will be determined in the coming days. But with a Clinton campaign ready to exploit any sign that Obama has an electability problem, numbers like these (and from respected pollsters like Quinnipiac) will not make Obama's already difficult week any less painful.

First, on to the primary polls from the two May 6th states:

  • Rasmussen's tracking poll shows Clinton taking a narrow 46% to 44% lead, a 10% swing in the past two days and the first time she is ahead since April 13th.
  • Gallup's tracking today also finds Clinton gaining ground, now leading Obama 49% to 45%, the first time she is ahead by more than 1% in quite a while. In the general, Clinton now runs 4% better than Obama as she is tied while he trails by 4%.
  • In what is the best polling news for Obama today, the race in Indiana remains close, with Clinton up 46% to 41% according to Rasmussen's poll conducted on Tuesday night. Clinton only gets 4% (!) of the black vote (she can explain a bit more on Tuesday) and leads among whites by 19%.
  • Update: A second poll from Indiana released this afternoon by IN-based TeleRsearch has Clinton leading by 10%, 48% to 38%. She also improved her number as the days passed, in another confirmation that the week-end was rough on Obama.
  • Now comes the North Carolina shocker: Insider Advantage finds Clinton ahead, 44% to 42%! Clinton was merely trying to keep the race competitive -- read single-digit -- and now a poll has her leading. That's a 17% swing in Clinton's favor since the last IA poll.
  • Now, keep in mind that the internals suggest that the picture is not as rosy as this for Clinton: Obama only gets 65% of the black vote, which is also somewhat underrepresented; accounting for that, Obama would undoubtedly in the lead. But the trendline among white voters is also very significant, as Clinton has increased her margin by 14%, so a large part of the 17% swing is due to this shift.
  • Mason-Dixon releases its own poll from North Carolina, finding Obama ahead 49% to 42%; this survey is more in line with previous polls and it confirms that Clinton has managed to push the race down to single-digits. A few days ago, a loss by 20% or more looked quite possible.
As long as Clinton wins in Indiana, she would be able to use a narrow loss in North Carolina to her advantage, for such a result would be one of the most (only?) unexpected results of the past few weeks, in a primary season in which both candidates have struggled to break each other's serve. But Clinton might regret these polls if they shift expectations in the next few days; there are enough days until Tuesday's primary for the media narrative to change away from NC being an expected blowout for Obama to "will he break double-digits?" This is, of course, exactly what happened in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, a series of general election polls also paints a troubling picture for Obama who has lost his edge relative to McCain in four polls taken in crucial swing states:

  • Rasmussen polls New Hampshire and finds McCain leading against both Democrats. But , while this is a state in which Obama usually far outpaces Clinton, he loses by 10% (51-41) while Clinton trails 47% to 44%. Last month, Obama trailed by 3%; two months ago, he led by 13%.
Quinnipiac released its monthly wave of polls from the "Three Big States" (FL, OH and PA):

  • In Florida, Clinton beats McCain convincingly, 49% to 41%. Obama trails 44% to 43%. This is an improvement for both Democrats; last month, Clinton only led by 2% but Obama was crushed by 9%.
  • In Ohio, Clinton reaches double-digits against McCain, 48% to 38%, while McCain narrowly edges out Obama, 43% to 42%.
  • In Pennsylvania, however, the prolonged exposure both Democrats got appears to have helped their cause. Clinton crushes McCain 51% to 37%; Obama gets a large lead as well, 47% to 38%.
  • The big difference comes among white working-class voters: Clinton is tied in FL, leads by 6% in OH and by 8% in PA among this group of voters. Among this same group, however, Obama trails by 17%, 15% and 7%! That's quite a large differential with Clinton.
  • Obama also suffers from his usual problem among registered Democrats; in Florida and Ohio, he only gets 69%. His edge relative to Clinton among independents is not as large as usual.
If I was looking at these numbers exclusively from the point of view from the general election, they could certainly be spun in a very different light: After a very difficult month, bitter-gate and Wright (the second wave of Wright is not included in these polls), Obama is tied with McCain in OH and FL and he has opened up a large lead in Pennsylvania, most probably thanks to the millions he spent on PA television in the run-up to the primary. Combined with Clinton's showing, the PA results are very good news for Democrats; the Keystone state is one of the most important swings states that they cannot afford to lose. Kerry and Gore spent a lot of time and money there, and it would be a huge boost if the Dem nominee did not have to do the same this year. The fact that McCain is not able to benefit from McCain's troubles suggest that Republicans might have a very difficult time finding competitive numbers for a while after the Democratic primary is over.

Viewed through the primary lens, of course, the NH and Quinnipiac polls are the ideal set of results Clinton would have designed herself: She has somewhat managed to open a large lead against McCain in all three states (it is very difficult to imagine a Democrat losing despite winning all three of these states), and her electability advantage comes from Obama's weakness among working-class whites, the group among which Obama is consistently weak. (Predictably, Kos's latest post hits Clinton for being "weaker across the board" by cherry-picking the surveys released in the past few days and only including... the New Jersey poll released yesterday by Monmouth University. No mention of Quinnipiac).

This is to say that these numbers are not random nor are they surprising; the constituency that is providing Clinton with an advantage here is one in which she always performs better. But in other states with different demographics, it is Obama who is stronger in the general election -- states in which the key swing state are independents rather than working-class whites (CO, OR and NV, for instance) are much more likely to be picked up or held by him. More than ever, the two Democrats represent two very different electoral maps.

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17 Comments:

  • Facts are a stubborn thing. Obama cannot close his 20 year old relationship with Wright because there is so much video evidence against it. On the TV program THE VIEW, Obama declared that Reverend Wright accepted that his view were inappropriate and mischaracterized. That it had offended many people. Then weeks later Wright goes on a national Hate America Press Tour? This was a blatant lie. Or worse, Obama was fooled by Wright which is kind of scary. That a possible next president can be played by a character such as Wright. Check the video evidence yourselves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6J7yJ9R5p0

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 12:15  

  • That Mason-Dixon poll was prior to Wright's death blow to Obama's bid. If this current path is any indication, Obama will be dropping out next week as rumors have stated. I will say that if that happens it probably would be the result of some unreported turn in the Rezko case and not just bad polling.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 15:02  

  • Teleresearch just put out Ind. numbes with Hillary up 10.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 15:13  

  • I think the paparazzi ought to keep Wright in the spotlight. Those pics are getting pricey.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 15:32  

  • It would be ironic if Clinton loses the expectations game. She was expected to win Ohio and Texas very well but then Obama came righ tup in the polls and in the end lost TX narrowily and OH by 10%. In PA she won by 9 (9.2 which even Clinton supporters will admit is 9% and not the double digit victory she needed).

    So Clinton leads Obama by a whole 2% when he is being attacked by the GOP, by her and has the Wright issue. My god, she should be well ahead. Lets reverse her two typical questions (of the moment)
    1)why can't she put him away and
    2) why does she have a problem with AA's, students and propserous white voters?

    By Anonymous Mike, At 01 May, 2008 15:50  

  • Funny how the CLinton supportes ignore the fact that a Indiana SD who was an ex DNC chairmen appointed by Clinton and endorsed HRC last year has switched to supporting Obama. Soon Obama will be ahead in botht he pledged and super delegate counts.
    Rather the Clinton supporters focus on Clinton finally being in the lead in polls. Although they said she should be the nominee when she was behind in the polls. Therefore I assume they will let Obama be behind and still claim the nomination.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 01 May, 2008 15:54  

  • She'll put him away soon, don't worry. AA's are voting on racism, not pride as they have deluded themselves, students are inherently gullible, and rich whites favor Hillary, rat-racers that make money but can't hold it favor Barack. Prosperous isn't a realistic term for upper middle class workaholics.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 15:55  

  • Polls narrow and polls widen. There are 4 complete days to go, so I would watch all the trends and see if these polls narrow again or continue to widen.

    Mike: good questions.

    and ignore "Anonymous". We have decided to not feed the trolls here anymore. Let em starve.

    By Blogger Mark, At 01 May, 2008 16:03  

  • No one seems to notice that the supers are staring to move. The Primary's and "Expectations Game" doesn't mean crap anymore.

    Supers are not clowns, and they wont be fooled by word games.

    Obama is closing in on 2025. Its ALL about delegates now. He only needs to ride out the last primary's and keep the split close to 50/50.

    The supers are not going to break HC way. They are as split as the Demo. voters are.

    HC lead in Supers is now down to 17-20. And they are splitting almost down the middle, slightly favoring Obama. Not nearly enough for HC to gain 130+ delegates she is going to need.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 17:37  

  • 17:37 None of them are as committed as you believe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 17:39  

  • None of them are as committed as you believe.

    And the evidence for that statement is...?

    I'd think that they'd be very careful about their positions before publicly committing. And I'd think that those who have committed later on in the process--who are mostly Obama supporters--would have been even more careful.

    By the way, Clinton picked up 4 New York add-on superdelegates today. But Obama will almost certainly pick up the 3 Illinois add-ons at the beginning of next week.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 01 May, 2008 18:43  

  • A superdelegate committing is worthless. There is no binding agreement and the rules allow for last minute flipping. Carter made that clear,remember? It's all a bunch of crap. They can freely decide at any minute what to do and the final decision will be made at the latest possible moment. If you can predict who remains most electable this summer then you have the winner. I predict Hillary. If she plummets and Barack survives then that could change.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 19:17  

  • I saw some article in politico talking about the Clinton delegate that switched to Obama that a real sign of Obama's weakness would be if he started to lose delegates, but that hasn't happend yet.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 01 May, 2008 19:22  

  • Great Obama looks good after a long battle against two republicans when Hillary is finally pushed out he will do wonders against just one...

    By Anonymous Carlos, At 01 May, 2008 20:12  

  • amen Carlos

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 20:44  

  • Great Obama looks good after a long battle against two republicans when Hillary is finally pushed out he will do wonders against just one...
    -----------------------------------

    Don't be too sure. The GOP wont care about "Loosing" the AA vote for the Primary. The don't need it, and sure as hell wont get any of it this year. So, it will be one ugly race war. That is for sure.

    IMHO, the GOP will try and turn the entire Demo. Party into the "Black" Party.

    IE: Permanently dive a huge wedge right down, and break off, the demo "White Working Class". The group that has been keeping HC afloat.

    And McCain is the perfect guy to do it. He is a very easy sell to "White Working Class" democrats.

    If Obama isn't careful, this could easily turn into a Demo Nightmare. Which is what so many of the HC folks are really afraid of.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 May, 2008 21:53  

  • A superdelegate committing is worthless. There is no binding agreement and the rules allow for last minute flipping.

    Yes, they can do whatever they want up to the time they vote. But I'll repeat what I wrote above:

    "I'd think that they'd be very careful about their positions before publicly committing. And I'd think that those who have committed later on in the process--who are mostly Obama supporters--would have been even more careful."

    Most of the superdelegates represent constituents. I doubt most of them would blithely commit to a position that would irritate some of them only to switch to another which would irritate the rest of them.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 01 May, 2008 22:05  

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