Monthly Archive for February, 2008

Friday polls: Obama where he wants to be in Ohio and Texas, McCain looking strong in Florida

Whether or not the ad war is any reason for this, Obama is continually improving his position in March 4th polls. Keep in mind, Clinton will have to prove these polls wrong by winning both states and do so by big margins. First, two polls from Ohio:

  • A new Zogby poll shows a toss-up, in one of the closest polls from the state we have seen yet: Clinton is only ahead 44% to 42%.
  • ARG confirms that the gap is rapidly closing, showing a 50% to 45% margin in a poll taken over the past two days. Five days ago, ARG showed a 49% to 39% gap.
  • Update: Rasmussen confirms that Clinton has lost her Ohio lead, showing her ahead 47% to 45%. That’s down from a 5% lead on Sunday night and a 9% lead last week.

If Clinton has to even worry about Ohio at this point, that leaves her even less time to focus on Texas, where her position looks even more dire:

  • Zogby shows Obama relatively comfortably ahead, 48% to 42%.
  • ARG has Obama up 51% to 44%, which is actually a one point improvement for Hillary (which is saying a lot). Clinton’s lead among women (+9) and Hispanic (55-41) is much smaller than it should be, going a long way towards explaining her Texan troubles.
  • Meanwhile, the BELO Texas tracking poll shows Obama taking the lead for the first time, albeit only 46% to 45%.

In all of these polls, John McCain hardly looks to be in any danger against Mike Huckabee, which is a semi-surprise given that Huckabee was expected to maintain some semblance of competitiveness in Texas. But with the media having given up on the GOP race, it is not surprising that Huckabee is finding no space to continue making his case.

McCain got even better news with the release of a Mason-Dixon general election poll from Florida:

  • McCain leads Obama 47% to 37% and he leads Clinton 49% to 40%.
  • McCain posts strong numbers among Republicans, while both Democrats (particularly Obama) are much weaker among independents.

If these numbers are confirmed (and Florida hasn’t been very kind to Dems over the past few months), it could spell trouble for the Democratic nominee who can’t afford to give up on the Sunshine State’s 27 electoral votes. (I am not suggesting that Democrats need to WIN Florida to get the White House, but that they need to force McCain to defend those 27 electoral votes, otherwise he would have too much time to spend not only on places he really can’t afford to lose, like Ohio, but also testing the Democratic nominee in blue-leaning states). One possible reason for McCain’s strength could be that he is likely to be stronger than other GOPers would have been among the Cuban community.

Obama blankets OH and TX, Clinton responds with controversial ad

Continuing his spending dominance, Barack Obama is taking additional steps to blanket Ohio and Texas with advertisements. His campaign has bought time for a two-minute ad in ever media market of Ohio and Texas (and there are many, especially in Texas) the day before the election. This is a tactic that both major campaigns used in previous elections, particularly in Iowa, but it had not been tried yet in such big states. What is even more noteworthy is that the Clinton is for now showing no intention following suit, yet another indication of how massively she is being outspent in these two must-win states. Driving around in Texas, Politico’s Jonathan Martin is also amazed by the extent of Obama’s advertisement.

And, as I pointed out yesterday, this spending gap is not necessarily explained by the fundraising gap. Clinton’s February $35 million — by far her record since the start of the campaign — should be more than enough to answer Obama. If anything, Clinton’s campaign is probably thinking far less about saving money all the way to the convention right now than Obama’s is.

Facing with this ad onslaught, it is looking like an increasingly impossible task for Clinton to get what she needs on Tuesday — big enough victories to cut into Obama’s delegate lead in any meaningful way. And the New York Senator is trying something new today: A controversial new ad that makes the preparedness for national security more explicitly than ever before in this race. With pictures of children sleeping and the sound of a phone ringing (watch the ad here), an announcer reads the following script:

It’s 3am and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.

Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.

Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.

It’s 3am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

The ad naturally ends with the customary “I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message” (which should dispel any possibility that people think that this is, say, an Obama ad). The ad is reminiscent so many GOP ads over the past few cycles, emphasizing the danger of this world and the need for a strong lead. What came to my mind first was Bush’s wolves ad from 2004 — the suggestion of danger being almost stronger than showing danger itself. But, via Ben Smith, this ad truly comes from, an 1984 spot called “Red Phone” ran by Walter Mondale against Gary Hart, questioning the latter’s preparation to deal with the “issues of our time” (watch this ad here).

What is most striking about Clinton’s ad is how weak a contrast it draws — it is truly the Democratic version of such ads, in that it remains very soft, so soft that I can’t help but wonder whether it can really have any effect. The wolves ad, for example, was a direct attack on Kerry; Clinton’s ad only draws implicit contrasts, and it is unclear whether the first-time viewer even notices them before being told who the ad is being ran by.

If Obama is the Democratic nominee, expect much much more brutal versions of this argument, since McCain has already made Obama’s national security inexperience a central feature of his campaign. If this issue continues to dominate over the next few months, will it force Obama’s hand when it comes to a VP pick, and will have have to choose someone based first and foremost on foreign affairs/national security credentials (Webb and Richardson?).

Bloomberg confirms he is not running, and people finally believe him

After months of speculation during which NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg repeatedly denied any plans of running for President while taking steps that seemed to contradict his declarations, he finally put an end to rumors by writing in a New York Times op-ed that he would not jump in the race. “I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president,” Bloomberg wrote.

With Barack Obama and John McCain now looking favored to win their parties nomination, the general election will feature two candidates who emphasize the need to bring the country together, to transcend partisanship and not look necessarily in line with the party and its priorities. Whether or not those things are true, the fact remains that Bloomberg was hoping to capitalize on divisive and ultra-partisan figures winning the nominations (especially Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney) to jump in, spend millions of his own money and seduce the independents.

Joe Lieberman and Chuck Hagel — two Senators who had been flirting with Bloomberg for the past few years — had implied recently that there was no need for a Bloomberg candidacy now that McCain had emerged as the GOP nominee. And the same logic was applied to Obama’s rise. Unity08, the group devoted to electing a non-partisan/bipartisan ticket and that was seen as the ideological backbone of a Bloomberg candidacy, announced at the end of 2007 that it was taking a break and cited the rise of the Illinois Senator as proof that its message was functioning: “Barack Obama, for example, has made the theme of unity and the necessity of bridging the partisan divide an absolutely central theme of his campaign.”

In his op-ed, Bloomberg confirmed that McCain and Obama’s ideological positioning had weighted in on his decision, and he appears so satisfied as to even consider jumping in on behalf of one of the candidates:

I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership… If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.

It is difficult to say who Bloomberg would have drained most votes from, so that there is no clear sense of who is the most relieved by this announcement. A former Democrat who ran as a Republican before dropping any party affiliation last year, Bloomberg would have emphasized economic issues, drawing on a pro-business orientation that usually favors Republicans. Many voters who typically vote GOP but who are going increasingly Democrat because they are uncomfortable with the Republicans’ social stances could have been attracted to Bloomberg’s candidacy. Most polls that were taken with Bloomberg showed him hovering around the 10% mark, drawing perhaps a tiny bit more votes from the Republican than from the Democrat.
But yet again, Bloomberg demonstrated in NYC that he can appeal to Democratic voters as well, which could have caused trouble for that part’s nominee.

Obama outraises Clinton in February, continues posting strong poll numbers

News came yesterday that Obama was massively outspending Clinton in the March 4th state, which accounts for why it is now basically impossible for Clinton to get what she needs next Tuesday. Massive outspending does not necessarily win an election, but it certainly is enough to prevent a blow-out defeat, i.e. it prevents Clinton from achieving what she needs.

Now, the campaigns are releasing their February fundraising information: Clinton is announcing that she has raised around $35 million. Obama has not released definite numbers yet, but his campaign is indicating they have raised “considerably more” than $35 million. Estimations over the past few days have put Obama’s fundraising somewhere around $60 million, which means about $2 million raised every day. Both candidates are raising much more money than they did in January (when Clinton had come out with $13 million).

But this does not explain why Clinton is being outspent so massively. She might have raised much less than her rival, but $35 million is not a low number by any means (it means more than $1 million a day, pretty much where Obama was in January). It is more than enough to get Clinton out of financial trouble, prove that she is financially viable — and to allow her to blanket Ohio and Texas with advertisements and match whatever Obama spends. After all, there is so much that the Illinois Senator can spend without saturating the airwaves. So where are those $35 million going?

The situation is dire for Clinton in most polls that are now being released:

  • The Texas Rasmussen poll out today shows Obama leading 48% to 44% — the first time he has taken the lead in this state in Rasmussen.
  • A People Calling People poll has Obama leading 40% to 33% — a very high number of undecideds — though Clinton is narrowly up among early voters (a statistic that is confirmed by the SUSA poll, and that could prove an interesting development given that it helped Clinton in California).
  • Finally, the Belo poll has Clinton maintaining the tiniest of leads, 46% to 45% — but the trendlines are in Obama’s favor, as Clinton was leading by 3% yesterday.
  • The Pennsylvania Rasmussen poll points an equally dramatic number, as Clinton is leading by only 4% — 46% to 42%. PA doesn’t vote until April 22nd (and if the OH and TX numbers hold for the next 6 days, Pennsylvanians won’t really get to weigh in), but her drop there exemplifies the drop she has experienced nationally — and speaks of her difficulties in neighboring Ohio.

As I explained yesterday, the big March 4th question was not whether Clinton would win and hold serve. Obama took a huge delegate lead in the February elections, forcing her to score big in Ohio and Texas. Now, we are looking at Texas polls showing her a little bit down or a little bit up, as if the interesting question is whether she will win the Lone Star State. All these polls show Clinton way under the true threshold she has to cross. When the question becomes whether she is going to win Ohio and Texas at all, it becomes hard to imagine how she will storm back to significant victories.

Update: Hope for Clinton? A new Insider Advantage poll shows a 5 point swing in her favor, as she now leads 47% to 43% in a poll conducted yesterday night, versus a 1% deficit in the Monday night poll. The pollster does insist that hte internals are pointing out towards a shift in momentum, and to the Latino vote solidifying Clinton’s way. This is not confirmed by other polls, but yet again this is the most recently conducted survey.

But as I said above, this gives Clinton supporters hope that their candidate might win the state, not that she might win it big. And that is the key metric out of March 4th.

Problems with Campaign Diaries

I was having some major technical problems with my blog and moved it over (hopefully temporarily) to this new blogspot address. There is no need to update your bookmarks; you will be forwarded here from the old website, and I hope this will be resolved soon enough. I apologize for the very slow posting over the past 24 hours. I had a few entries written but never managed to publish them. This also means that internal links won’t be working until I update them, which I will hold off on for now since I have hope that this can all still be resolved. So bear with me.

(If anyone has expert knowledge on Blogger or on hosting problems please contact me, it is impossible to get anyone to help you over the phone.)

Wednesday polls: General election toss-ups

Four general election surveys were released today, with very little consistency in the issue of the electability gap between the Democrats, but all showing John McCain in a strong position — much stronger than his former GOP rivals appeared to be a few weeks ago:

  • First, Quinnipiac released a general election survey which shows both Democrats barely edging out the Arizona Senator — 44-42 for Clinton and 42-40 for Obama — in a state either will have to win come November.
  • This poll is very interesting because it underscored just how different the two candidates’ core constituencies are. Among Democrats, Clinton gets 80% and Obama only 69%! Among independents, Clinton trails by 2% and Obama leads by 5%. Both Obama and Clinton are weak in one of those groups and they will have to be strong if they want to build a solid majority.
  • In Ohio, a University of Cincinnati survey shows Obama edging out McCain 48% to 47% and McCain leading Clinton 51% to 47%. SUSA’s recent poll from Ohio has shown Democrats in a slightly stronger position.
  • Next, a poll from Tennessee gives a clear edge to John McCain who crushes Obama 53% to 37%. Clinton runs much better than Obama here and makes the race competitive: 45% to 41%. Until recently, Clinton used to systematically run ahead of her Democratic rival in Southern states.
  • In North Carolina, finally, a new poll shows McCain in a strong position, crushing both Democrats by double-digits, 48% to 36% against Hillary and 46% to 36% against Obama. PPP released a poll from NC a week ago that showed the Republican ahead by 5% against both Democrats.

No earth-shattering numbers here. The question this early in the campaign is in what states will the general election campaign really engage in, what states look competitive with a McCain candidacy? These numbers from NC and TN — the kind of states in which some of the Republican candidates looked particularly weak — should offer the GOP some comfort that they won’t have to put just as much defense here, though there is little doubt that the map will be significantly more expanded than it was in 2004 and that we should get used to the fact that many states that were on no one’s radar screen then will host some very competitive races this year.

Massively outspent, Hillary Clinton increasingly unlikely to score the big victories she needs next week

I apologize for the very slow posting today. Either my blogging or my hosting service appears to have major technical issues and refused to upload this post.

I wrote last week that the Democratic race could still drag on for weeks to come: If Hillary Clinton wins both Ohio and Texas, she would still be the heavy underdog but she would have survived to fight another day. Since then, Barack Obama has taken the lead in a few Texas polls and cut her Ohio edge to mid single-digits. Now, for Clinton to comeback on March 4th will allow her not to post blow out victories but to simply win both states — by any margin at all.

Unfortunately for the Clinton campaign, this is no longer early January and the expectation game is no longer relevant to analyzing the campaign. Hillary’s 2 point victory in New Hampshire was a giant triumph that entirely changed the state of the race. 2 point victories in Ohio and Texas would be very different: Clinton does not need to win, she needs to catch up Obama’s massive pledged delegate lead. She can no longer battle herself back to a draw as she did on January 8th, she needs to change the fundamentals of the race.

And it is looking increasingly unlikely she will be able to achieve that next week. The Clinton campaign is now holding on to polls that show them still in the lead in Ohio and some even in Texas — but the issue was never whether Clinton would be able to win Ohio and Texas but whether she would be able to win them big. And when the question becomes whether she is going to win them at all, it becomes hard to imagine how she will storm back to significant victories.

Complicating matters is the fact that Clinton is being heavily outspent in those decisive states, a dynamic that started playing out in the run-up to February 5th. Clinton has spent $14 million to Obama’s $23 million over the past 30 days. And First Read now suggests that she is being outspent nearly 4:1 in Ohio once we take into account the independent expenditures that are playing on Obama’s behalf (for instance SEIU). Who would have thought that Clinton could lose the election because of fundraising problems?

It is in this context not surprising that Clinton is unable to sustain a double-digit lead. Such massive outspending does not necessarily win an election, but it certainly is enough to prevent a blow-out defeat, i.e. it prevents Clinton from achieving what she needs. And the latest poll from Pennsylvania out today by Quinnipiac suggests that the contagion is reaching later states: Clinton is ahead only 49% to 43% down from a 16% lead two weeks ago (52% to 36%). That’s an important drop that is reflected in the Texas and Ohio numbers.

Clinton has done plenty to try and change the dynamics of the race over the past two weeks, most notably her switch in tone over the past week-end. The debates were her best chance to reverse momentum, but now that the two debates have passed we can see how daunting that task was: Those were the 19th and 20th debates of the cycle, which means that (1) most attacks Clinton could launch had already been aired and that (2) Obama knew exactly what was coming and was prepared, simply because he had already heard it all. Given how difficult it is to knock an opponent out at a debate in a first confrontation, it is nearly an impossible task after a year of discussion.

In fact, the only debate development that truly changed the race were due to multi-candidate dynamics: In Philadelphia, Clinton stumbled because the entire field was against her and harassed her for the driver licenses answer (starting with Chris Dodd). In New Hampshire, it was the tag-teaming of Edwards and Obama that led to women rallying around Hillary. And in South Carolina, Obama benefited because he was the one in the middle, with Edwards and Clinton firing shots at him. In these two candidate debates, there were no such gang-ups (nor backlashes against them).

Now with 7 days to go until March 4th, it is unclear how many more occasions Clinton will have to regain her footing. And do so decisively.

Begich jumps in Alaska Senate race, in major Democratic recruitement coup

The Alaska Senate race just became one of the top races to watch. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich is set to announce his candidacy against incumbent GOP Senator Ted Stevens, a major recruitment coup for the DSCC.

On paper, the race hardly looks like it would be competitive. Stevens is one of the most entrenched Senators, first elected to the Senate in a special election in 1970. In fact, since his 1972 re-election he has never received less than 67% of the vote and he is known for bringing back plenty of pork to his home state. To make matters worse for Democrats, the last time they won a federal race in Alaska was in 1974 with… Mike Gravel! Since then, they have held the governor’s mansion but come out with some disappointing finishes in congressional elections (especially Tony Knowles’s 2004 defeat).

But the Alaska Republican Party is struggling in a giant corruption probe that has engulfed Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens, whose house was raided in 2007. In September, when it was revealed that the FBI had recorded phone conversations between Stevens and a businessman who has confessed to bribing Stevens’s son and sending company employees renovate Stevens’s house, even the state’s Republican Governor distanced herself from Stevens. These developments have fueled speculation that Stevens might not run for re-election — Stevens has denied that possibility and is preparing to run — and have gotten Stevens a primary challenge that does not look that threatening but that will require the incumbent to spend even more time fighting to retain his seat. And he has to do while fearing the tricke of negative stories and the progress of the investigation.

The most recent poll of a Stevens-Begich match-up was taken in December by Research 2000, an independent firm that had been commissioned by Daily Kos (this does not really count as an internal poll, since Kos is releasing numbers that look bad for Democrats as well, for example a survey showing Allen down by a huge margin against Collins in Maine). It shows Begich leading Stevens 47% to 41%, confirming that this race will be one of the most interesting ones to watch in the next few months.

In Ohio debate, Clinton fights hard and scores points but not enough to reverse dynamic

In a fiery confrontation that had plenty of tense moments, Hillary Clinton appeared much more determined than she had in last Thursday’s debate and attacked Barack Obama on many fronts at once, forcing the Illinois Senator to stay on the defensive for much of the night. But Obama was happy to oblige, avoiding any stumble that could alter the race’s fundamentals — and that is really all that a front-runner has to do.

Unfortunately, the dominant story tonight was the moderation of Tim Russert and Brian Williams, who managed to exemplify the Clinton campaign’s contention that the media is favoring Obama while simultaneously throwing misguided questions Obama’s way.

The moderators versus the candidates

Early in the debate, Hillary Clinton protested that she was being treated unfairly and that she was being asked a question first a bit too often, implying that Obama was then able to simply reiterate her response and avoid taking any risk. In an explicit reference to the Saturday Night Live skit that accuses the media of being in the tank for the Illinois Senator, Clinton asked “Maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.”

The line was over-the-top at that point of the debate, and that made it look rehearsed. But the determination with which observers are now pillorying Clinton for that one-liner is perplexing considering that the rest of the debate often looked like the SNL caricature.

Early in the night, Brian Williams read a quote in which Clinton was calling in question Obama’s foreign policy preparedness. He then turned to the Illinois Senator and asked, “How were her comments about you unfair?” Even granting that this was not meant as an endorsement of Obama’s defense versus Hillary’s attack, the question was phrased as an unbelievable softball. And that was not the softest the Senator would receive.

Soon after, Williams did not let Clinton respond because, he solemnly declared, “Television does not stop;” he did not explain, of course, why advertisements at that particular moment were so absolutely necessary. And the end of the commercial break made the scene even more caricatural. Brian Williams announced that it was time to show Barack Obama make an hyperbolic statement (the show had started with a clip of Senator Clinton’s “Shame on you” press conference). But instead, we were treated to a second clip of Clinton, one in which she derides Obama for believing that “the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing.” Williams immediately explains that the video was shown as a mistake and that he was indeed intending to show a clip of an over-the-top Obama moment… and goes on to ask the Illinois Senator to comment on the clip that had just been (inadvertently) shown anyway. Just like the “How were her comments about you unfair?”, the invitation’s vague phrasing was a stunning softball — and it can hardly even be described as a question.

The night’s last unbelievable moment occurred when Tim Russert asked the candidates what they knew about the man likely to soon be elected as the new Russian President. Clinton answered without mentioning the man’s name (for the record, it’s Dmitri Medvedev), and Russert fired a direct shot: “Do you know his name?” Clinton stumbled and stuttered out a very deformed version of Medvedev’s name, falling victim to the most outrageous moment of gotcha politics Russert has tried at one of these debates (and there are plenty to choose from, for example his attempt to get Hillary to comment on a statement without telling her it had been her husband that had uttered it).

To be fair to Tim Russert, he did try to balance things by aiming some tough questions Obama’s way. Unfortunately, they were cheap shots that only lowered the tone of the debate. First came Russert’s pushing the non-issue of Barack Obama’s ties to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam: “Do you accept the support of Louis Farrahkan?” Even more shocking was Russert’s back-and-forth with the Illinois Senator over public finance. Russert repeatedly asked Obama how he could possibly not commit to taking public financing when he had pledged to doing so last year.

Trouble is, Obama has never pledged such a thing. What he has said is that he will strongly consider doing so if the GOP nominee abides by public financing as well: “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” Obama’s response to Russert did not make this point clearly, and this led to a truly surreal post-debate scene. Talking to Russert, Keith Olbermann put Obama’s commitment in full context to make exactly this point, but then added that he was not doing so to criticize Russert’s question but to wonder why Obama had not brought this nuance up. In response, Russert replied that he had been surprised as well, and that he would have expected Obama to make that argument. Does this mean that a debate should consist of moderators throwing out claims that they have consciously distorted? And it is really up to the candidates to rectify deformed quotes?

Obama versus Clinton

Clinton failed to make the debate about Obama as she was hoping it would be. She was surely counting on the moderators grilling the new front-runner, given that she was at the center of attention for most of 2007’s debates; but she was denied as soon as Russert started grilling her on NAFTA. Sensing that this might be her last opportunity at a direct confrontation, Hillary did her best to attack Obama from all possible angles. Many of the arguments she used have been aired many times before; the debate over health care mandates, for example, echoed the discussion the candidates had just had on Thursday, though today’s exchange was probably the most specific to date.

Other attacks were less expected. Clinton’s argument that Obama always turns to his 2002 Iraq speech when the question of his qualifications and judgment arises was more forceful than usual, and so was her willingness to say that Obama had the leisure to oppose the war because he did not face the responsibility of action. Also, Clinton’s charge that Obama has not held a single hearing on how to get NATO more involved in Afghanistan in his Senate subcommittee is not one we are used to hearing. Finally, Clinton much too eagerly jumped all over what she saw as too weak a response on Obama’s part to the Farrakhan question.

Focused on giving his opponent as few openings as possible, Obama had no desire to fight back too strongly and prolong such exchanges. He spent most of the night on the defensive, and he did seem thrown off balance but some of the more unexpected lines of criticism. His response to the Subcommittee hearing argument — that he had become the chair at the beginning of 2007, at the start of his campaign — was particularly weak since the point Clinton was seeking to make was exactly that Obama jumped in the presidential race before accomplishing anything in the Senate.

But overall, he had come prepared to the deluge of attacks Clinton submitted him to and he answered all of her claims, avoiding any sort of stumble that she could pounce on. He almost stayed on the defensive out of choice and seemed eager to concede some points to his opponent: That might have allowed Clinton to score a point here and there, but it was not a victory on points that the New York Senator was seeking tonight. And Obama launched just enough sharp attacks of his own — “Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on Day 1, but in fact she was ready to give in to George Bush on Day 1 on this critical issue.” — to make even the victory on points murky.

Clinton appeared ready to concede the race last Thursday, but she came to this debate ready to fight on. Had Clinton attempted this a year ago, she might have knocked Obama off balance. Unfortunately for her, this was t
he 20th debate of the campaign. Obama knew what was coming, knew how to answer and battled her to a draw. A week from Ohio and Texas, one of Clinton’s last opportunities to change the race’s dynamics passed and probably changed very little.

General election surveys diverge, show Texas potentially competitive

A few general election polls were released today, some of which contradict the idea that Obama is opening up a clear and consistent electability gap. And overall, the surveys suggest the Democrats might be entering the general election phase with a slight advantage.

  • First, the New York Times survey shows Obama crushing McCain nationally — 50% to 38% — while Clinton and McCain are tied at 46%.
  • AP-Ipsos also gives an advantage to Democrats: Obama is ahead 48% to 39%, while Clinton is up 46% to 41%.
  • Finally, Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows a reversal: After weeks of Obama running much strongly than Clinton, they now run roughly even, Obama losing to McCain 47% to 43% and Clinton 47% to 44%.
  • Update: The LA Times/Bloomberg poll came out as well tonight, showing McCain ahead of both Clinton (by 6 points) and Obama (by 2). The national polls are not agreeing at all on the state of the race, pointing to how fluid the campaign is (understandably given that the primaries are not even over).

The most surprising survey comes from SUSA’s poll from Texas, known as one of the most reliably Republican states in the country:

  • McCain leads both Democrats by single-digits: 49% to 43% against Clinton, 49% to 41% against Obama.
  • Obama does better among African-American voters (88% versus 74%) but Hillary does much better among Hispanics (a 17% gap rather than a 6% gap).

Texas is never put on the list of swing states, and it is still very unlikely that McCain will really tremble. Not to mention that the Democratic nominee will not need Texas to get to the White House. But it is easy to overstate Republicans’ Texan dominance. After all, Bush did win the state by huge margins (61-38 in 2004), but some of that edge came from the fact that Texas was Bush’s home state. After all, Texas already had a minority white population by the 2000 census, so strong numbers among blacks and Latinos could keep the Democrat at a strong level. And while a Democratic win is very unlikely, a challenge could force McCain to spend time and valuable resources defending the Lone Star State (just as Bush unsuccessfully tried to force Gore to defend California in the closing weeks of 2000).

Obama’s train starts leaving the station, as Clinton’s support erodes

Chris Dodd became the first former Democratic presidential candidate to endorse today, as he rallied behind his party’s frontrunner. The reasons he gave were not necessarily that he wants Obama to be president more than Hillary, but rather that the train is leaving the station and slowing it down will only hurt Democrats in the fall: “It is now the hour to come together. I believe the hour has come now for us to make that choice – to stand up and say we’re going to get behind this candidacy… I don’t want a campaign that is only divisive here, and there’s a danger of it becoming that.”

Chris Dodd’s endorsing Obama will have no significance in Ohio and Texas and the only state it could have mattered at all (CT) voted weeks ago. But the language he uses and the timing of his announcement exemplify why Clinton is so weak right now. Not only is she trailing in the delegate count, but she has to fight Obama’s growing inevitability argument to prevent too many people from rallying behind him thinking that the primary is over. This is the position that she was in back in the fall, when she was picking up endorsement after endorsement. And now the roles have reversed, making it very difficult for Hillary to hope for a comeback.

To make matters worse, polls are continuing to show an erosion of her support in March 4th states, both in Ohio and in Texas. Yesterday, Obama took his first leads in Texas while Clinton kept a high single-digit advantage in Ohio. Today, three new polls underscore how close Clinton is to being forced out of the race:

  • In Ohio, Rasmussen has Clinton up 48% to 43%. A few days ago, Clinton’s lead was 8%, and that was already a drop in support. It seems that Obama’s campaigning on NAFTA is working, as an overwhelming majority think that he is opposed to NAFTA while the verdict is split about Clinton’s position.
  • In Texas, meanwhile, it seems safe to say that Clinton is no longer the favorite. In the latest PPP survey, the two candidates are tied at 48%, though Hillary leads 52% to 44% among registered Democrats and is not weakening at all among Hispanics (68%). But Obama is getting strong results among Republicans and independents who, PPP notes, “plan to vote in the Democratic primary because of John McCain’s status as the presumptive nominee.”
  • Finally, SUSA gives the Texas lead to Obama, 49% to 45%, a 9 point swing in his favor in a week. Obama is picking up grounds among most groups, and holds Hillary to 52% among Hispanics.
  • Update: Add one more poll showing Clinton’s support eroding. SUSA came out with its latest Ohio poll, and shows Clinton up 50% to 44%, holding firm thanks to a 22% lead among women (and a 37% gender gap). Two weeks ago, Clinton led by 17%. Last week, she led by 9%.

As I often note, don’t forget that Obama will likely get more delegates out of Texas than his percentage would suggest, so even a 1% lead would give him a significant delegate lead — and that’s not even accounting for the caucuses. Clinton has to change the dynamics of this campaign in the final week in a dramatic way, and things like Chris Dodd’s endorsement of the Illinois Senator underscore the challenge she faces that she first needs to explain how she can still win the nomination and try to slow down the Obama coronation.

Tonight’s debate (the last one?) is one of her last chances to change the direction of the campaign.

House diary: Renzi shows no intention of resigning, Dems make move in Alabama

After Arizona Representative Renzi was (unsurprisingly) indicted a few days ago with 36 charges of corruption, speculation mounted that Renzi would be forced out of his seat early, forcing a very difficult special election for the GOP. And pressure rose even more when Minority Leader Boehner hinted that he would like to see a Renzi resignation, signaling that House Republicans were even more worried about having to face ethics as an issue again next year than the difficulty of defending such a seat in a special election.

Now, Renzi is finally speaking up and pledging to stay in office. “I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent,” he said, a declaration that for now rules out the possibility of a special election here. Renzi is not running in November so the seat was open already, and there is no reason to expect Renzi to resign in the coming months if he wants to hold firm now. After all. Rep. Ney (from OH-18) did jump out of his race late in the fall of 2006, months after his party had started pressuring him but the circumstances were there different: Ney was actually running for re-election. Rep. Jefferson (D-LA), on the other hand, is indicted and still in the House.

Meanwhile, Democrats got some good news in Alabama, where they might have just managed to make an overwhelmingly Republican district competitive. AL-02, which opened up months ago, gave 67% of its vote to Bush in 2004, so it is not the type of open seat the GOP was expecting to spend any time thinking about. But Democrats just scored a major recruiting coup by convincing Bobby Bright, the mayor of Montgomery, to run for the House. Now, what is unusual here is that Bright is a non-partisan mayor and that Republicans were courting him as well, as I had reported back in September. So Bright deliberately chose to jump in as a Democrat when he could have had a much easier time as a Republican. Given the number of Republicans in their party’s primary, this might also be to avoid a crowded primary — and there is little doubt that Bright would seat at the Right of his caucus if he got to the House.

But from an electoral perspective, this is yet another open seat headache for the GOP. The very red nature of the district makes Bright an underdog for now, but his high-profile in his populous city should enable him to keep things close. And this is exactly the DCCC’s intention: Expand the map and force the RNCC to defend seats like AL-02. Remember — and I cannot state this enough — the GOP has a massive fundraising disadvantage right now. Yes, they have been doing better over the past few months but they remain far behind their counterparts and still don’t have that much to spend.

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