Fun With Polls

There’s a whole lot of polling going on out there, and some very interesting data coming through.  When you put it all together it paints a very clear picture; the Obama campaign has transformed into a kind of steam roller that is poised to rollover the Clinton campaign, as well as possibly the McCain camp as well.

So let’s have some fun with polls.

We’re going to start off with what has become one of my favorite little tidbits; the Gallup Daily Tracker which shows that Obama is ahead of Clinton for the third day in a row by a small margin.  Further, if we take one statistical hiccup out of the mix that precedes the three day lead, we see Obama settling in for a near two week lead over the former frontrunner.

This data is of course backed up by a plethora of other polls that together build a significant trend showing Obama with a small but stable lead over Clinton nationwide.  Now, you’ll notice that for the most part these are narrow leads, which, had this been the beginning of the primary season as opposed to nearing the end of the middle (at least), would mean that there’s still a lot of ball to play, and you can’t take anything for granted.

But this late in the game, the dynamics shift.  Months ago, when Hillary was beating Obama everywhere by strong double digit margins, you could attribute his low standing to low name recognition.  That I think largely factors in when we see the meteoric rise the Senator from Illinois has seen in many of the states after he actually touches down and starts campaigning in them; he erased the low name recognition with a message that resounded with a large amount of voters.

But that’s not the case anymore.  It’s unlikely that Hillary Clinton is going to make marked improvement in the polls simply by campaigning in the state.  On the other hand, one could make that claim if she would simply campaign wisely, which seems to be an impossibility so there you go. 

In other words, the dynamics of a race this late in the game much more strongly favor the frontrunner whereas earlier, they were much more agreeable for an underdog to pull off some upsets.  Hillary has to do both in creating positives with herself while finding a way to stop the momentum of her opponent, a task that grows increasingly difficult as we are now on a very short timeline with few events that provide high yield opportunity.

Now, in the course of this nomination fight, the Clinton campaign have established Texas and Ohio as her major firewalls; the two states where she reverses the momentum of the Obama campaign.  However, the picture here is looking significantly bleak; especially in Texas.

As CNN reports, Barack Obama has come through with a statistically insignificant lead over Hillary Clinton in the Lone Star State, leaving them essentially tied.  Also, CNN notes that there have been other independent polls taken which all paint pretty much the same picture.  Indeed, a quick look at Pollster’s aggregation shows the two Democratic candidates in a neck and neck fight with eight days still left to go.

What I find particularly interesting about the Texas numbers, though, is that Obama’s progress in that state tracks on an almost pure vertical straight line and only a couple of weeks ago, Clinton enjoyed a solid double digit lead, one that was nearly thirty points late last year.

As you undoubtedly know, this isn’t the whole story though.  While the Clinton Camp has made winning the primary issue in Texas we know that based upon the breakdown of the primary/caucus hybrid that Texas uses, Hillary needs to come up with something close to sixty percent of the popular vote just to tie Obama in pledged delegates.

Which means that the firewall that the Clinton camp has built deep in the heart of Texas has its foundation buried in a blowout victory in favor of the Clinton camp; a blowout that at this point just about every single poll is telling us will not happen.

Ohio provides more hospital grounds for Mrs. Clinton, at least for now, but as the Donklephant points out, while Clinton still enjoys statistically significant leads, those too are fading fast.  One poll shows Obama making up ten points in the space of 11 days while two other polls give Hillary only a single digit lead.

But there’s more bad news for Clinton.  According to the NYT, more Democrats finally believe that Obama is best suited to beat McCain than Hillary, while in USA Today, we learn that nearly three to one Democrats believe Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

These two polls, if truly representative, show just how difficult Clinton’s job is going to be.  The reason for this is that they provide for Obama the air of inevitability that the Clinton campaign held straight up until Iowa, and possibly up to South Carolina.  They paint him as the frontrunner, and by proxy, something of an establishment candidate.  Which means the question becomes how do you beat the establishment frontrunner candidate?

The easy answer, of course, is to run as an insurgent, however; there is virtually no way for Hillary to pull that off.  While her campaign has had great difficulty establishing a narrative, for instance, some things they have been modestly successful at, and the biggest one is what bites them in the butt now.  That being the idea that she is the experience candidate.  It’s difficult to take a campaign that ran initially as an incumbancy and pull the complete 180 and run as an insurgent.  It’s next to impossible to do that with the Washington ties she has, and the pull within the party as well.

Logistically it’s almost impossible.  This monolithic challenge before her, though, is only emphasized by the fact that she can’t run as an ideological insurgent either.  Ideologically, two separate narratives have developed, one in which the two of them are essentially the same on the issues, and the other that Obama is to the left of Hillary.  The only way Hillary could possibly revive her campaign as a kind of protest campaign against the machine candidate ideologically would be for her to take a hard turn to the left which simply isn’t going to happen.

All of this informs the absolutely critical significance of tomorrow night’s debate.  Hillary has to deliver a KO punch tomorrow night, an unmistakeable death blow.  That is essentially her path to the nomination now that does not involve taking actions that could rip the party apart and further decrease the Democratic nominee’s chances in the General Election.  Of course, we saw the problem with trying to land the big haymaker on Thursday when she went for the plagiarism dig and got booed.

And with this, we turn our eyes to the General Election.  Returning to the USA Today poll, we see McCain over both Democratic candidates, but with notable differences in the two trial runs.  Against Hillary, it is a statistically significant lead, while with Obama, we’re looking at a one point lead that is well within the margin of error.

To be perfectly honest, this is the worst I’ve seen Obama perform against McCain since pollsters started running trial heat polls, and these results do not exactly instill a great deal of worry in me.  When you look at the nature of the Republican primaries and the Democratic primaries, it all makes perfect sense.

In McCain’s primaries, he’s all but won already, giving him the benefit of campaigning virtually unfettered against the Democratic candidates.  By contrast, Obama is locked in a bitterly fought delegate war which means his own party is currently split, and his opponent is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.

Assuming the Clinton campaign makes a graceful exit on March 5th as it should (that is assuming, of course, she loses Texas or Ohio), Obama will have the chance to unify the party, and address McCain head on and I would fully expect to see his numbers go back up and over McCain rather quickly.

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  1. Presidential election 2008 |Republicans Vs. Democrats » Fun With Polls - [...] With Polls February 25th, 2008 unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIt’s unlikely…

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