Week-end polls: In case anyone had illusions about Clinton's June 3rd chances

The first poll of the Montana primary -- not a contest that was expected to ever be surveyed -- suggests that June 3rd should not allow Hillary Clinton to close the primary season on a high note. Mason-Dixon shows Barack Obama leading 52% to 35%, and there is every reason to believe that Clinton's road is as tough in South Dakota.

Naturally, these two primaries award very few delegates (31 combined, versus 55 in Puerto Rico two days earlier). But since Clinton's goal seems to be to find an argument to stay in the race as long as possible, there is no doubt that two harsh defeats on the last Election Night will not bode well for her campaign's rationale in the days following June 3rd, days in which the remaining uncommitted superdelegates are expected to pick their side at an increasing speed. DemCon Watch details this week's updates, and finds that Obama picked up 3 supers to Clinton's one (all were add-on, and Clinton's surprisingly came from Georgia).

Meanwhile, a list of general election polls were released today:

  • First, Gallup's national tracking poll is noteworthy for it shows one of the largest differentials between Clinton and Obama's performance that it has recorded since the tracking started a while ago. Today, Obama trails 49% to 44% while Clinton leads 47% to 45%.
  • Meanwhile, Mason-Dixon's Montana poll shows possibly tight races, though McCain is predictably starting ahead. He leads Clinton 50% to 39% and Obama 47% to 39%. Bush won 59% to 39% four years ago.
  • In neighboring Nebraska, however, Research 2000 crushes Democratic hopes of picking up a few electoral votes with Obama's candidacy. McCain trounces Obama 57% to 29% (leading by wide margins in all congressional districts) and leads Clinton 58% to 28%. A Rasmussen poll and a SUSA poll released in the past few months showed much tighter results.
  • Meanwhile, in California, an LA Times poll should send shills down Democrats' spine, as McCain is very close to both Democrats: 47% to 40% against Obama, 43% to 40% against Clinton. Two polls released Friday showed both Dems up double-digits.
  • Finally, a North Carolina poll by Civitas has a tight race between McCain and Obama, with the Republican leading 44% to 39%.
The California numbers are significant, for if a series of polls in the next few weeks show the potential of a single-digit race, the Democratic nominee will be forced to spend resources to defend this large state with expensive media markets even if the GOP campaign does not attempt anything. Democrats can take no risk in California, as the loss of its 55 electoral votes would leave no road to the White House.

The Western states are also interesting, for it is a central part of Obama's argument of a different electoral map that states that have traditionally not been receptive to Democrats -- places like North Dakota, some congressional districts in Nebraska, Montana -- could warm up to him. Polls are telling a conflicting picture about this, as Obama has polled very strongly in some polls (in Alaska, Nebraska) but more poorly in some. All these states have very few electoral votes, so the loss/gain of one would not necessarily determine the election (though it could, as Al Gore learned in 2000).

In one last polling note, Research 2000 also conducted a survey of the Nebraska Senate race and found Mike Johanns leading Scott Kleeb by a wide 58% to 31%. A Rasmussen poll released last week found Johanns ahead 55% to 40%, a more promising picture for the Democrats. But this merely confirms what we already know: What was a very promising race at some point in the fall is now among the most difficult for Democrats, as Johanns is a very popular and well-known politician of a very Republican state. This is a rare congressional open seat in which the GOP looks to have saved itself through recruiting.

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