Poll Report: Slipping Away

Note: Given my new schedule, and how much I focus on polling analysis, I’m going to try something a little new.  As opposed to throwing up a post on a poll everytime one pops up, I’m going to try and consolidate all the polling that catches my eye in a single, lengthier report that I hope will paint a bigger picture on the state of the race.  We’ll see how it goes.

For some time now, Senator Clinton’s aspirations of gaining the Democratic nomination have relied heavily upon alternative solutions.  The traditional metric used for determining the nominee is of course pledged delegates, however; given the Democratic party’s rules there is some wiggle room through which these alternative solutions could be applied.

In order for these solutions to be both valid and viable, however, other pieces do have to fall into place, and Clinton must at a bare minimum make a convincing argument in relation to the more traditional metrics.

Polling suggests that Senator Clinton’s chances of satisfying the necessary arguments in order to adopt an alternative solution are slipping away.

First, we turn to Pennsylvania.

Time produces a poll that has mixed news for Hillary Clinton.  To her benefit, she still maintains a hold on key demographics for her; primarily white women, and all whites making under fifty-thousand dollars a year.  Her support also appears more stalwart, the one stat that particularly sticks out being that twice as many Clinton supporters say they would vote for John McCain should Obama win the nomination  compared to Obama supporters who would vote for McCain if Obama lost the nomination.

But the bad news for the Clinton campaign comes in the margin of the lead; only six points.  The impact of such a narrow margin brings with it a three-fold problem.

1) Mathematical implications-As has been noted multiple times among the scrutinous pundit caste, the onus upon Clinton is not merely to win states, but collect significant net delegate gains that can at least narrow the gap between herself and Obama.  She can make a plea to Super Delegates, but she’s going to find that plea will fall on deaf ears if she has to ask too many of them to overturn a significant pledged delegate deficit.

To illustrate what I’m talking about here, we’re going to cede to Mrs. Clinton some very generous assumptions.  We’re going to assume that Mrs. Clinton wins all contests after Pennsylvania by a twenty point margin, and we’re going to assume that Super Delegates will overturn the pledged delegate lead so long as the deficit remains under fifty.  Under these very generous conditions, Mrs. Clinton would need to win Pennsylvania by a 61 to 39 point margin.  In order for her to tie in pledged delegates with all other contests going in her favor by twenty points, Mrs. Clinton would have to win Pennsylvania by an astounding 76-24 split.

2) Potential for Loss- With a week and a half between now and Pennsylvania, a six point provides too much opportunity for Obama to actually win the state.  This is especially true with a debate scheduled within days of voting.  Typically debates provide more opportunity for the underdogs than the front-runners, but in this Democratic race we see an interesting situation.  Nationally, Obama is the front-runner, but in Pennsylvania Clinton is the front-runner.  So, while on the national stage this debate could be seen as an opportunity for Obama to do himself harm, it is Hillary Clinton who will really be on the spot here.

This because she is in the awkward position of having to protect her support while at the same time she has to go on the offense and erode Obama’s support.

She can ill-afford to play prevent defense on April 19th, but she has thus far proven to be ineffective on offense on the whole.  She could possibly score some punches, but one of the dynamics of this campaign has shown that Mrs. Clinton is as likely to do herself damage as she is to damage her opponent.  Perhaps even more so.

3)Psychological/narrative/momentum implications-Despite the fact that there does seem to be a potential for Obama to win this primary, I still believe Hillary Clinton will win.  However, her win will be nowhere close to where it should have been.  Keep in mind that, as this graph shows, Hillary was supposed to win Pennsylvania by a jaw dropping margin:

08PAPresDems600.png

That she let what was a 20+ margin slip down into a narrow single digit lead is most definitely going to be part of the story come April 23rd.  There are nuances that could affect this narrative in, or against, Hillary’s favor.  For instance, if last minute polls show Obama in the lead but Hillary manages to win there could be a repeat of the kind of reporting that occurred in the aftermath of New Hampshire, but I think the most likely story coming out of Pennsylvania will be that she was favored to win big in Pennsylvania, she absolutely had to win big in Pennsylvania, and she didn’t.

But the TIME poll provides better news for Hillary Clinton than other polls released today do.  CNN’s most recent “Poll of Polls” has Obama down in the state by only 4 points.  Though pollster’s aggregation seems to me to be more reliable than CNN’s aggregation, it is still worth noting that both are showing trends that Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania is swiftly slipping away and quickly approaching the margin of error; a place Clinton does not want this race heading.

The picture doesn’t get much prettier once one leaves Pennsylvania, either.  Remember how I mentioned that Clinton needs not just a big win in Pennsylvania, but also twenty point victories everywhere else?  Well, North Carolina is shaping up to be a twenty point race, but in the wrong direction, as Libby Spencer from the Newshoggers reports from the ground.

Further, it is going to be far more difficult, I believe, for Hillary Clinton to make up ground in North Carolina given that there will be a lot less time between Pennsylvania and North Carolina than there was between the Ohio/Texas contests and Pennsylvania.  She has to focus her time and resources on making the best show she can in Pennsylvania and then turn around and push hard in North Carolina, which itself is going to be difficult.

What makes things worse for her is that she has not shown the ability to drive up her numbers with hard campaigning the way that Obama has.

Finally, we’re going to look at my favorite drug, the Gallup Daily Tracker.  This is what the Democratic race is looking like nationally:

What I continue to find interesting is that this most recent bump that Obama is enjoying continues to stray what I’m using as the model trend which comes from a week prior.  If you’ll notice, Obama enjoys two bumps almost one week exactly apart, but within three days of the last bump, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were essentially back to within the margin of error.

Now, Obama is holding his lead over Hillary Clinton in a much more stable fashion with his lead remaining at eight points.  The gap is narrowing, but what we’re seeing is that there is likely a real statistical advantage that Obama is holding over Hillary despite a statistically aberrant survey.  In other words, I think it is safe to say that Obama is finally pulling away, albeit in a very slow manner.

When we look at the match ups against John McCain, Obama still manages to get the better of him, but is still within the margin of error, while Clinton has dropped a point, falling out of a numerical tie with McCain.  Given how narrow the fluctuations and how stable the numbers in both polls, however, neither is truly worth noting.

I suppose it also bears mentioning this poll reported upon by the AP that shows McCain erasing a ten point lead on Obama’s behalf.  But here’s my thought; given the dynamics of the race at this point in time, I don’t think polling against McCain is particularly useful in general.  Right now the Democratic race is highly contentious and most polls are going to mask meaningful support as a result of the animosity felt by the most ardent supporters of both candidates.

Further, I wanted to remark on the statistics that show more Clinton supporters would be willing to support McCain than Obama.  Of course that’s what the stats will show; she’s losing.  I think if Obama was in Clinton’s position right now, Clinton supporters would likely be more magnanimous, and Obama supporters would be more likely to support McCain than Clinton.  This is natural, and it is essentially a kind of threat from many of these people.  That threat being, if you don’t let our candidate win, we’re not going to help  you in the General Election.

Some will hold onto that position, but I think most will get over it eventually.

Polling against McCain will be more important to look at once the Democratic nominee is selected, and then the first thing to watch for is how quickly the Democratic party heals its primary wounds, if it all.

More from Memeorandum: MyDD, TalkLeft, Wake up America, MSNBC and PoliGazette.   TalkLeft, Telegraph, Marc Ambinder, The Moderate Voice, PoliBlog (TM), Donklephant, The Page, Political Machine, Below The Beltway, PoliGazette, TPM Election Central and Southern Political Report

One Response to “Poll Report: Slipping Away”

  1. Kathy says:

    22nd April, PA Primary, let’s make Hillary win…

    Here is the list of Super Delegates who are supporting Hillary from PA

    * Allyson Y Schwartz
    * John P Murtha
    * Joe Sestak
    * Ed Rendell
    * Paul F Kanjorski
    * Marcel Groen
    * Ruth C. Rudy
    * T.J. Rooney
    * Jean A. Milko
    * Ian Murray
    * Evelyn D. Richardson
    * Rena Baumgartner

    Let’s urge them to Keep Pledge to vote for Clinton.

    Here is the list of Obama Supporters

    * Patrick J. Murphy
    * Chaka Fattah
    * Leon Lynch
    * Carol Ann Campbell
    * Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Let’s urge them to switch their Convention voting pledge from Barack Obama to Clinton

    And here is the list of Un-committed Delegates

    * Ronald R. Donatucci
    * Robert Brady
    * Michael F Doyle
    * Christopher P Carney
    * Tim Holden
    * Jason Altmire
    * William M. George
    * Sophie Masloff

    Let’s urge them to end their Uncommitted stance, and make a public pledge to vote for Clinton.

    Contact super delegates
    *edited by moderator. I wanted to keep this up so people know what spam looks like, but I have erased all pathways to the source website. I’ll be damned if they get free traffic off of me.

    K*

    *Second note. You’re not going to help your cause putting something like this on what is largely a pro-Obama site. Understand, this is the kind of thing that will probably spawn a post later on today… I don’t know, call me crazy.
    K*

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