An inconvenient poll -- Obama leads McCain 48-40 in PA

In our long essay about the future of left of center politics, Peter Leyden and I point out that Democrats have won 19 states worth 248 electoral college votes in each of the last four presidential elections. This group includes important states like PA and MI. It is this analysis which has led us to argue that the true battleground of this election will be in the heavily Hispanic states of AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV (and a handful of other states like OH, MO, IA, NH and perhaps NC, WI and VA).

One of the big arguments coming from both the McCain and Clinton camps has been that Obama cannot win those northern industrial states so critical to this Democratic map, and that they can. But is this true? Can McCain, in this environment in which the GOP is weaker today than it has been since at least 1982, and perhaps the 1960s, really think about winning a general election state they have not won since 1988? I have always believed that once a Democratic nomiee was picked, those 248 Electoral College votes would begin to settle in for the nominee and the game would move to the battleground described above, which in recent years was won by the GOP.

A new Survey USA poll of Pennsylvania indicates that as Obama begins his transition from candidate to nominee, that these traditional Democratic states may be reverting back to form. This new poll has Obama beating Senator McCain in PA by 8 points, 48-40, well outside the margin of error -- and this is before Senator Obama has been officially crowned the nominee. Another poll has the uber battleground of Ohio even. I've seen other recent polls that have Obama within a few points of McCain in Texas and Arizona (driven to some degree by the Hispanic community's aggressive abandonment of the GOP).

While it is early, and these polls will bounce around, looking at the national polls (A new Reuters poll released today has Obama up 8) and new state polls, there is growing evidence that Obama is successfully bringing the Democratic Party together, is winning over key Clinton constituencies and that his much discussed weakness with certain white voters is not carrying over to the general election battlefield in any meaningful way.

It also means that we will be seeing an unprecedented national campaign for the Hispanic vote, a battle which Senator McCain begins in a very weakened position and without a lot he can do to change a very anti-GOP dynamic that has taken hold in the Hispanic community.

Here she goes again, again

Incredibly, Senator Clinton has revived her efforts to persuade us that the votes of people in Florida and Michigan - two states she agreed along with all the other candidates to ignore and sanction - should count, and that she has thus won more votes than Senator Obama.

In a recent post I argued it was time for the Clinton to let go of the Florida and Michigan fantasy and to recognize this case was doing grevious harm to her with the superdelegates in the other 48 states and 6 territories.

Obama counterpunches

West Virginia. 

Then NARAL.  Edwards.  Lots of new supers.  Boom.  Obama strikes back.  Hard.

If Senator Clinton doesn't announce a new round of new money in the next few days, this could be over very soon.  As I wrote the other day, it really is all about the money now. 

Obama, Democrats rising - the race is going through a structural evolution

Two central dynamics are now taking over the Presidential campaign - the enormous, even historic, structural advantage of the Democrats, and Obama's new "surge", brought about through the early stages of his imminent victory over Senator Clinton.

Poll after poll these last few years have documented the emergence of a whole new political dynamic in American politics - the end of the conservative ascendency, the collapse of the GOP brand and the rise of the Democratic brand. Simply put, the country is more Democratic today than it has been since at least 1982 and perhaps all the way back to the 1960s. Today's Washington Post has a new national poll which again captures the yawning gap between the two parties, and the strong wind blowing behind the Democrats as they head into 2008 (for further evidence of this note huge fundraising and turnout advantage for the Dems so far in 2008).

A big looming question over the Presidential race has always been would the Democratic nominee be able to match the 10-15 spread between the two parties, resulting in what could be a truly realigning election and the dawn of a new progressive era? So far there has been little evidence of this, and indications have largely pointed to a very close general election.

But in the last week, there are signs that Obama's slowly emerging "victory" over Senator Clinton is beginning to alter that dynamic. Winners often get a bounce from their victory. It can be a few points or much more. And given that Senator Clinton is still in the race, it would be surprising for the Obama bounce to be more than a few points. But looking at the Post poll, the new LA Times poll, Rasmussen and Gallup, there is evidence that Obama is in the early stages of a bounce. He now leads Senator Clinton in all these polls by a larger margin than he has at any time in the campaign, consistently in double digits now (destroying her argument to be a stronger general election candidate). But he also is now starting to show three, six and in the Post poll, seven point advantages over Senator McCain.

While the Post makes the case that at this point McCain is outperforming the GOP and is showing remarkable early strength, I think that interpretation, while partially true, does not really capture what is happening in the race (particularly on the day GOPer Bob Barr entered the race, again showing how hard it is going to be for McCain to take full control over his party). Given the nature of the Democratic race, we really have no idea what a true McCain-Obama match up looks like. Senator Obama has yet to go through his ascension to be the Democratic chief, and all the public benefit that accrues from winning. This week, we are starting to see the public in the early stages of seeing Obama now as the Democratic nominee, and his numbers are rising across the board. But has he has not yet really won yet. I don't think at this stage he has risen as far has he will once Senator Clinton drops out of the race. He is in a sort of "mid-bounce." Which given that Senator Obama is now up mid- single digits now without having fully won, and given that the structural gap between the two parties is between 10-15 points, means he is likely to keep climbing over the next few weeks.

So, to me, this new Post poll should not be a comfort to the GOP, but yet another reminder of the catastrophic legacy of the age of Bush, and another early sign of what may be an historic realigning election to come in 2008 (the Mississippi House Special Election will be another sign).

For more on the dawn of a new political era, be sure to read our recent magazine article, The 50-Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era.

Rasmussen's daily track sees Obama bounce

The Rasmussen daily track has seen a 15 point shift from Clinton to Obama in the last ten days. The last two nights of their daily track now has Obama up over Clinton by 11 points, the largest margin yet recorded, and him up over McCain by 4, 47-43. Obama appears to be getting a "bounce" from Tuesday night.

Given the generic numbers for President and Congress (Dems up 10-15 points), I fully expect that once Obama secures the nomination, and Clinton ends her campaign, for him to get a significant bump and to be in front of McCain by at least high single digits. This new poll is the first evidence that we may be seeing this scenerio beginning to be playing out already. It will be interesting to see what other polls show in the coming days, and how the media coverage of Clinton's likely victory in WV affects this possible new dynamic.

Given her already weakened financial state, if a national swing like this is actually happening and shows up in other polls over the next few days, it is going to make it very hard for Senator Clinton to go on past next week.

We will see.

Sat 4pm Update - Gallup now also shows significant movement to Obama. Again still early to say this is a definitive across the board bounce, but these 2 major tracks have both now shown real movement to Obama these last few days.

Clinton running out of money

The NYTimes has a very bad piece for the Clinton campaign today. It details how cash-strapped the campaign has become.

It has been my belief all this week that the most critical moment for the Clinton campaign would be today through this weekend. It would be at that point at which the candidate would have enough information about her financial situation to make a determination on whether she could afford to proceed. There can be little doubt now that the Clintons have poured more money into her race than almost any other candidate in recent political history. It is their wealth that is keeping the campaign afloat. Believing they would do better than they did in Indiana and North Carolina, they borrwed and spent heavily, and have put her campaign deep into debt.

Initial reports indicate that Senator Clinton has not been raising a lot of money this week. It takes $1 million every day or two to keep a campaign like hers going. If she is only taking in $2 million to $3 million a week, she will add another $15 million to $25 million in debt over the next month. That is a lot of money. Politicians traditionally don't get out of a campaign because they are losing. They get out because they run out of money. And it sure appears that Senator Clinton is out of money, with little prospect that she can change that in the next few weeks.

If Senator Clinton somehow decides that she has enough money to get through the weekend, I think she will stay in through the June primaries. But right now, today, with stories like this one in the NYTimes, the financial reality of her weakened standing is beginning to become clear, and this more than any endorsement, poll or issue will determine whether Senator Clinton continues through June. 

The backlash against the Clinton Florida and Michigan strategy

In addition to sounding like she has been trying to rewrite the rules in the middle of the game, I think the strident rhetoric by the Clinton campaign on the sanctioning of FL and MI has done grave damage to their campaign. Most of the superdelegates, who at this point have the power to decide the outcome of the race, are from the other 48 states and 6 territories. They played by the rules. They are not interested in rewarding FL and MI for bad behavior and have resented the approach taken by the Clintons.

In addition, Senator Clinton's campaign agreed to the sanctioning of Florida and Michigan. If the voters of those states were disinfranchised then she was instrumental in bringing that about. The superdelegates in these other places understand all this better than anyone, and I think her wild approach to resolving the unfortunate problem of FL and MI has ended up being a major cause of her terrible showing with superdelegates these last 2 months. Like many of us who understood the system, and her role in creating it, the campaign's consistent whining and strident rhetoric has spoken very badly of her character. To many this episode has reinforced the notion that she and her husband were her willing to say and do anything to get elected, including what appears to be, let us say, lying and cheating.

Given that no one campaigned in either place, or that Barack was not even on the ballot in MI, these states did not have legitimate elections. Counting the outcome towards the eventual delegate count is simply not an option. The idea of somehow splitting each of them 50/50 to each of the 2 candidates, and reducing their total number by some percentage, now seems the most fair way to proceed.

For the Clinton campaign it is time to let go of the FL and MI fantasy. It has done a great deal of damage already to her standing with far too many.

Update: For more on the state of the Democratic primary race visit here.

Update Thur pm - Amazingly, Senator Clinton sent a letter today to Senator Obama about this very issue. Read it here. I first weighed in, strongly, on this issue the night of the Florida primary, and have felt very strongly since then that this was a terrible decision by the Clinton campaign.

On this primary night where do things stand?

Before I weigh in with fresh thoughts, check out this recent post, Is Obama Recovering?, and this one, So, after Pennsylvania, where are we?

More soon.

Update: The African-American vote looked like it came in very heavy for Senator Obama tonight, and may have been the key to his impressive win in North Carolina. For more on this check out this excellent recent essay by Tom Schaller, who will be part of our exciting event this Friday, New Tools, New Audiences.

With his win in North Carolina, Senator Obama has ensured that the fundamental dynamic in the race - that he is winning and she is losing - has not changed. With fewer delegates left for Senator Clinton to win, the end result tonight is that Senator Obama is now ever closer to becoming the Democratic nominee. After a few tough weeks this is a very good night for Senator Obama.

Update 7:57pm - Why is Lou Dobbs on my TV? He is truly one of the biggest asses on tv. It is amazing everyone is being nice to him. CNN and Time Warner should be ashamed.

Update 8:00pm - On CNN Schneider and O'Brien are talking about how Obama's struggle with non-college white votes could be fatal in the fall. Why then is Obama even or beating McCain in the general election polls? Is it that the electorate has changed? For more on this check out my recent essay, On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy which includes a link to our big recent article, The 50 Year Strategy.

Update 8:15pm - Do the Clinton people tonight now regret their gas tax strategy? In retrospect was their aggressive approach on the gas tax instrumental to moving the conversation from Wright to the struggle of every day people, and giving Obama a break from a news dynamic that was deeply effecting his standing? In response to this offensive by the Clinton campaign the Obama campaign effectively countered, and made the struggle of every day people central to their argument in both states. I think there can be no doubt now that the way Obama closed was a strategic breakthrough for his campaign, which has struggled to make this critical issue central to his spirited fight.

Update 8:45pm - I love Donna Brazile.  She has been great tonight. 

Update 9:15pm - Another Tuesday night. Another night at the church of Obama. It is good to hear his powerful and uplifting voice again, and not all the nasty and crazy talk of the last few weeks. Somehow Senator Clinton's speech now seems vital, critical, essential. Can she make a pivot, a turn, and begin to lift us up and inspire us all at this important moment in history, and not be just strong and tough but also wise and generous?

Update 10:23pm - Lake County. Holding their results past primetime. Anyone think Obama supporters run that county?

And man is Lanny Davis a seriously bad spokesperson for the Clinton campaign. All he is talking about now is process, griping, rewriting the rules, complaining about Florida and Michigan. It is an awful whinefest. The tenacious and spirited Senator Clinton deserves better.

Gas tax policy as character -- updated

Clinton and Obama have released a new round of gas tax ads in advance of Indiana and North Carolina. Clinton's argues that she will fight the oil companies and make them pay the gas tax, while Obama's argues that her propsal is "bogus" and "a gimmick."

Clinton's ad:

Obama's response:

Both ads again use this policy issue to ascribe character traits to the candidates: Clinton argues that she is a fighter, while Obama argues that Clinton is a Washington politician interested soley in political expediency. A recent CBS/NYT poll shows that Obama may be landing blows with this argument.
On the gasoline tax, the survey underlined the risk Mrs. Clinton is taking in embracing a position that most Americans — including a majority of her own supporters — appear to view as political pandering. More than 60 percent of voters in the poll said that Mrs. Clinton said what people wanted to hear, rather than what she believed. Forty-three percent said that about Mr. Obama, and 41 percent about Mr. McCain.
The same poll showed that the fighter argument may be working for Clinton:

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said Mr. Obama was "tough enough to
make the hard decisions a president has to make." Seventy percent said
the same of Mrs. Clinton, and 71 percent of Mr. McCain.

As NDN President Simon Rosenberg has written about John McCain, his positive numbers on these character issues will quickly change once the media scrutiny begins. He has run away from his days driving the Straight Talk Express on issues from immigration to campaign finance, and now, with his stance on the gas tax, on climate change and energy issues.

Clinton has a new gas tax ad out, using some of the same footage from the one found above, that goes after Obama more directly. Take a look:

Update 2: Obama's latest ad going into tomorrow's primaries says Clinton is taking "the low road."

NDN gas tax coverage round up:

  • Obama goes after Clinton on gas tax
  • More on the gas tax - including a quote from Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro
  • Ads focus on gas tax
  • Energy Insanity - coverage of Thomas Friedman's column by Green Project Director Michael Moynihan
  • Candidates talk energy policy
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