Closing The Gap

As Dustin could attest, I about flipped my lid when I saw that a new PPP poll had Obama overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to establish a two point lead over Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania. I mean, even if you were impossibly hopeful regarding Senator Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania, I think you would have to be out of your skull to think that he could overtake a 20+ point lead in the space of only a couple of weeks.

Indeed, the ridiculously huge surge makes me want to call the whole thing statistical noise.

Dustin insisted that even if that is mostly just noise, there had to be something real underlying the numbers for there to be that big of a jump, and a round up of polling by the Politico seems to indicate just that.

While the PPP poll seems to be wildly off the mark, polls by Rasmussen and Survey USA both show trends where Obama is on the move. In the Rasmussen poll, Obama is within spitting distance at only six points down, while the SUSA poll shows him at twelve points down. This last one is still a substantial margin, but puts the Illinois Senator up about four net points, and close to sneaking into a single digit deficit.

Keep in mind, this is one of the few states where Clinton was not capable of lowering the bar for herself. Virtually all considerations of this race require her to not only win Pennsylvania, but win it big, by at least a double digit margin, and realistically, by a margin no less than high teens.

Should Obama even finish Pennsylvania with only a single digit deficit, that’s going to come off as a huge win in a state where the Demographics are stacked up against him.

Now, I’ve long suspected that Obama would do better in the race than most are going to give him credit for, but I’ve held that suspicion close to the chest for some time. You never know, three weeks is still an eternity and there’s still the chance that an April suprise may pop up and sink his entire campaign.

But barring something of this nature, I’ve several reasons to think that Obama has a better than fifty fifty shot of pulling an upset, or at least making a photo finish out of the Keystone State.

The first reason is a trend we’ve seen all primary season; once Obama starts campaigning in a state, his numbers go up. It’s happened everywhere, and while it hasn’t always resulted in a win, it is this aspect of his campaign that has helped him prevent a lot of sure things for Clinton becoming blowouts.

The next reason actually informs a few more specific reasons; Obama also has a history of outperforming polls. This isn’t quite as rock solid of a trend as the one mentioned above, but it still holds that he tends to do better than polling would indicate.

Possible factors contributing to this makes me think that the polling we’ve seen in Pennsylvania masks perhaps a larger pool of support for Obama. In general this is because a respectable portion of Obama supporters aren’t going to be weighted as strongly as Hillary supporters because of the categories they fall in.

Those being newly registered voters, young voters, and for a Democratic primary, independent voters.

Some of these folks aren’t going to be polled at all, or may not make it into the ranks of “likely voters” which are going to skew the math a little bit.

Now, when we look at Pennsylvania, one thing that really grabs my attention is the record setting new registers that, if memory serves, was somewhere around 4 million new voters. Given what we know about where Obama’s support base comes from, I think it is reasonable to assume that he is netting a higher portion of these new registers than Hillary Clinton.

Interestingly enough, because the registration deadline fell after the time when polling in PA began in earnest and analysts started paying attention to the numbers, one thing to take into consideration is that the earlier polls aren’t even going to touch this huge swath of new voters. They simply weren’t even a part of the sampling.

This may give you cause to think that at least after they register, perhaps they would start getting sampled, but remember, these went from being non-voters, to new voters which, as I’ve said above, aren’t necessarily going to be lumped in as likely voters.

So, even after the registrations went through and they officially became part of the sampling pool, there is still a respectable probability that they are going to be underrepresented in polling data from here on in.

Now, I’m not trying to imply that there’s this secret army of Obama supporters that are going to push Obama to a clear, blowout victory over Senator Clinton, but I am suggesting that there is cause to believe that every poll we see (with perhaps the exception of that PPP poll which is in the extreme on the bell curve) is going to undercut Obama’s true support in Pennsylvania.

It would just be nice to avoid a major catastrophe along the way.

More from memeorandum: The Swamp and Prairie Weather, TPM Election Central, The Moderate Voice (Joe also points out that if Obama gets too close, look for a “hail Mary pass” from Team Clinton), PunditGuy and Liberal Values (Dr. Chusid points out that apparently PPP has a pretty good track record so far).

3 Responses to “Closing The Gap”

  1. tas says:

    I think the reason why Obama does better in polling after he starts campaigning in a state is because he’s still an unknown commodity, as far as politics and the general population goes. Hillary, on the other hand, everyone in the country knows who she is. That’s why she got so many votes in Florida and Michigan… Those states weren’t contested, nobody campaigned there, so Democrats that voted went for the person they most knew. Which, of course, would be why her campaign wants revotes there, I imagine… For her, it would sure be great if votes in states that Obama never campaigned in counted.

  2. that’s a very good point. A lot of it is name recognition.

    I don’t think that Florida or Michigan are going to matter. I’m looking at the super delegates right now, and after I posted the two that endorsed Obama earlier there’s been a third today. There’s supposed to be like six tomorrow from North Carolina. I think there’s going to be a steady trickle from here on in, and I think they’re going to push this thing to an end before all is said and done.

  3. Bostondreams says:

    I really do not give this poll much thought. Though its nice seeing the usual suspects going apeshit over it.

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