The Incredible Campaign - Sunday am wrap up

What can you say. This one has it all. Drama. Volatility. New voters. New media. The weaknesses of our election system mightily exposed. Consequential differences between the two parties. And of course the overwhelming desire for change. What a remarkable and exciting election.

I offer up some thoughts and links on this Super Sunday. Yesterday I swore off reporting on polls, humbled as we all have been by their - let us say - unreliability. But this morning I changed my mind. Here we go:

- There are polls out today with good news for both sides in the Democratic contest. Josh Marshall reports that the national Rasmussen and Gallup tracks have Senator Clinton gaining. The new CA Field poll out this am shows the Golden State within margin of error, with Obama gaining and still a great deal of undecided. Post/ABC has it 47% Clinton, 43% Obama. All in all I think we go into Super Duper Tuesday with Obama having made up a great deal of ground in the last two weeks, something I have discussed here and here. Certainly it seems as if both campaigns will end up winning a lot of delegates and that we keep going through at least the first week of March when Ohio and Texas vote.

I don't really know how the media will declare a winner and loser on Tuesday night. The Nevada example - where Clinton won the popular vote, Obama won more delegates and Clinton was declared the winner - is a good example of how this process can only confuse the traditional way the media plays elections, particularly with the GOP side full of winner take all states and likely to produce a single winner - John McCain. What happens if one candidate wins more delegates and the other more states? National media, especially TV news, resists complexity. But that is what we are going to get Tuesday night on the Democratic side. For the East Coast media it will be particularly hard as CA could go late into the night.

I speculated the other day that given the complexity of all this the candidate who wins CA may end up having the greatest claim to make the "victory" speech, but I'm not so sure any more. It will be the most important state, no doubt. But I could see other narratives emerge. 1) Obama wins big in Red and Purple states, reinforcing his case that he will be a much better general election candidate (something the polls agree with). 2) Obama gets an early win in the NY media market, or keeps NY very close, setting the tone early that his late surge had an impact (I still cannot understand why Obama is not visiting the NY media market in the last week - it effects more delegates than other market in the nation). 3) Despite the closeness of the race one candidate could end up "winning" 12-15 states, giving them a visual win on election night even if the delegate count is very close or goes the other way. NDN will produce an analysis tomorrow that looks at the sequencing of the calling of states on Tuesday night, which will impact the final media narrative. Does anyone know whether the networks are doing exit polls in all 22 states? 4) Hispanics give Senator Clinton big wins in CA and other Southwestern states. 5) Obama suprises Clinton. 6) Clinton hangs tough, has a big night, stops the Obama surge.

Who knows.

- The Feb 12th Potomac Primary which features DC, VA and MD is going to engage the people of the Beltway in a very significant way in the campaign. The intensity and partisanship that is sure to break out here - pitting friends against friends, colleagues against colleagues - is a preview of the year to come. We are now almost certainly going to have 2 sitting US Senators running for President, putting the Senate, this city and its people on the very frontlines of the Presidential campaign in ways not typical in modern American politics. The emerging Bush-McCain, Clinton-Obama-Reid-Pelosi balancing acts will add even greater complexity to an already complex and dynamic political year.

- NDN's extended family is in the news quite a bit today. You can find us in Jose Antonio Vargas of the Post's piece on Hispanics in New Mexico; in John Heilemann's excellent piece on the importance of the Hispanic vote in 2008; in Holly Yeager's piece on the election in the Washington Independent; and Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, featured presenters at our upcoming March 12th Forum in Washington, have a major op-ed in the Post today on the coming power of the Millennial generation, one of our favorite topics. And if you haven't checkout the new Rolling Stone article, Blame Pedro, about the GOP's demonization of Hispanics, it is well worth a read. For background on the Hispanic vote and 2008 check out our recent memo, The Battle for Hispanics is Joined.

- Finally, the first round of national and state polling about the fall match-ups, while early, have some important clues to the coming general election.

First, McCain is consistently in the 40s, in some cases in the mid to high 40s and is often beating the Democrats. In these polls he is running 10 points or so of his Party, which indicates he may very well be a very competitive candidate. He, of course is not without problems - Iraq, his age, his flipflopping on immigration, his lack of an economic argument, a potentially deflated party base - but at this point he looks suprisingly formidible.

Second, Obama consistently outperforms Senator Clinton in these early head to heads with McCain despite her very strong showing in the Democratic primary and his lack of history with many voters. It needs to be said that given how well known Senator Clinton is with the national electorate her weak showing - most polls have her in the low 40s - is a worrisome sign for the general.

- Go Giants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday afternoon update: 4 new national polls out today.  3 have Obama Clinton within margin of error, functionally tied.  The main Gallup poll which had HRC gaining yesterday now has it within one point.   There are now polls out showing Obama ahead in California.   Meanwhile 3 new polls out in MO have Clinton leading by more than 14, by 7 and the race tied.  So who knows. 

Wherever we end up it is clear Obama had made up as much as 20 points in the last 12 or days, making this one a real nail-biter Tuesday night.  Josh Marshall has a good poll roundup.  As does Daily Kos.