Thursday, January 31, 2008

California Independents Are Clinton Nightmare

Gallup shows that in the last 10 days, Obama has moved from 20 points behind in the national polls, to within a few points of catching up to Hillary, with momentum clearly on his side.

In California, the trajectory may be even steeper, as the latest Rasmussen poll shows Obama is nearly tied with Hillary and his stock is rapidly rising with Edwards now dropping out.

The key number from the California poll is that Obama is beating Clinton among white voters.

But, of course, it's not just California that is up for a vote on February 5th.

What's fascinating here is that in other states Obama is suddenly picking up speed too.

In Massachusettes, Clinton was winning by 37 percent last week, but that gap has narrowed to just six points now, according to Rasmussen. In Connecticut, things are neck and neck. And if Hillary is spending time in Arkansas, as she was yesterday, that's because her "home" state is now no longer rock solid -- a very bad sign.

And while polls show Hillary still winning in New York and New Jersey, direction and velocity are good for Obama. Turnout in both those states may determine quite a lot. Even if Hillary wins, proportional seating may not give her much of a delegate edge.

There are at least five wild cards in this next round of poker, of course. The first is the California debate tonight, and the second is the chance that one side or another will trip on its tongue, or have a surrogate commit some unpardonable gaff in the days ahead.

The other wild card, of course are all those John Edwards voters. Which way will they go? In truth no one knows, and they may break regionally. My bet, however, is that Obama will pick up some momentum here -- maybe 10 of Edwards' 15 points. My thinking is simplistic: most Edwards voters have already said "No" to the Hillary they know. Now that these voters have had more time to look over Obama, I suspect he is starting to look pretty good.

And, of course, there is the fourth wild card in California that almost no one is talking about -- independent voters. As The Guardian notes:

"The Democrats are allowing California's three million independent voters to take part in the state's primary, one of at least 22 elections across the US on next week's Super Tuesday. In contrast, California Republicans decided to restrict their primary to voters registered as supporters, thus depriving the party of the possibility of attracting swing voters to its tent, and leaving the Democrats as the sole suitor of such voters.

"And this year, unlike 2004, the Democrats have a candidate in Obama who attracts independent voters - and even Republicans.

"According to conventional wisdom, independents are expected to make up between 8% and 12% of Democratic primary voters in California. But 2008's Democratic primaries have not followed convention so far. Turnout among first-timers, independents and young voters has been unprecedented - from South Carolina to Nevada. And the chief beneficiary of this surge in interest has been Obama."

The fifth wild card is the "McCain Effect." With McCain promising a massive amnesty program for illegal aliens, there is a very real chance that a significant number of Republicans may cross the aisle in the general election, provided they do not have to vote for Hillary.

On the opposite side of the same coin, there is a very real chance that a larger-than-normal group of Hispanic voters may say "McCain Si" in the general election if he beats the Illegal Alien Amnesty drum too long or too loud.

An analysis of Cuban voters in Miami suggests McCain did very well down there with that demographic. It remains to be seen if those numbers will translate with other Hispanic groups, however.

That said, simply pointing out how how the McCain illegal alien amnesty plan might impact the general election is a Very Bad Conversation for both Clinton and McCain, and a very good conversation for Obama. One thing is certain: you can count on that conversation being had quite a lot in the days and weeks ahead.

Finally, as veteran political columnist David Broder notes in
this morning's column, a longer race is likely to benefit Obama:

"On the Democratic side, the battle is more even, but the advantage has shifted back to Barack Obama -- thanks to a growing but largely unremarked tendency among Democratic leaders to reject Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president.

"The New York senator could still emerge from the 'Tsunami Tuesday' voting with the overall lead in delegates, but she is unlikely to be able to come close to clinching the nomination. And the longer the race goes on, the better the chances that Obama will ultimately prevail, as more elected Democratic officials and candidates come to view him as the better bet to defeat McCain in November."

Bottom Line: Look to the Virginia and Maryland primaries on February 12th to decide quite a lot if the February 5th primaries do not give us a clear winner by then (which I think they will not). My guess is that both Maryland and Virginia will swing Obama. If so, snap open a jelly packet, because Hillary is toast.


N. Hanks said...

Thanks for the great summary! Independents are clearly having a positive impact. Linked to The Hankster

PBurns said...

Thanks for adding the link. This should be an interesting debate tonight. The latest is that the national polls (Gallup) have reportedly closed to 4 points.

With this much volatility, the main thing to focus on is not the number, but the direction and velocity. Things have moved a LOT in 5 days and even if that movement slows (as I think it will have to), we have another 5 days to go, and so things could get very interesting even in places like NY and NJ. Turnout on Tuesday will be important, especially for independents. It will be an exciting Tuesday no matter how it goes.