Obama Catching Up in National Polls

Obama has moved from a twenty-point deficit to within six points of Hillary Clinton in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll:

Barack Obama has now cut the gap with Hillary Clinton to 6 percentage points among Democrats nationally in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking three-day average, and interviewing conducted Tuesday night shows the gap between the two candidates is within a few points. Obama’s position has been strengthening on a day-by-day basis. As recently as Jan. 18-20, Clinton led Obama by 20 points. Today’s Gallup Poll Daily tracking is based on interviews conducted Jan. 27-29, all after Obama’s overwhelming victory in South Carolina on Saturday. Two out of the three nights interviewing were conducted after the high-visibility endorsement of Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his niece Caroline Kennedy.

Tomorrow we’ll see the first effects of Edwards dropping out of the race. I think it is possible that Edwards’ twelve percent will break somewhat in Clinton’s favor, but it might not be enough to matter. Worst case scenario is probably eight percent to Clinton and four percent to Obama, and with this momentum Obama has a good shot of making up even more than four additional points.

A twenty point deficit would appear overwhelming if it had persisted. A single digit difference can change quite quickly. Considering how many voters in a primary change their minds at the last minute, and considering all the limitations in polling before a primary as opposed to a general election, things can go either way on Super Tuesday. Momentum is definitely in Obama’s favor. The deciding factor in the race might be the manner in which Clinton turned to dishonest tactics. If Obama wins it will be largely due to his added support from the anti-Clinton backlash for their recent tactics, which includes the Kennedy endorsements. This will probably also result in a higher percentage of Edwards supporters moving to Obama than would otherwise be the case. Resorting to a dishonest campaign might have doomed Clinton, but this assumes that Clinton would have still have won New Hampshire without the dishonest mailers about Obama’s positions. It is also possible that if Clinton hadn’t gotten dirty Obama would have won Iowa plus New Hampshire, and go on to totally dominate the race.In most years we are approaching the time when the insurgent candidate would start falling behind the establishment candidate. This year Obama has a number of advantages which previous insurgent candidates have not. Often it is the more educated Democrats against the bulk of the party. At the very least Obama adds the black votes to those who would otherwise vote for the insurgent. Clinton has a number of negatives which might make her less unbeatable than most establishment candidates. The support of people like Kennedy and Kerry also help Obama pick up many more core Democratic voters who would normally support the establishment front runner.

I suspect that things are now close enough that the tracking polls won’t pick up the exact vote and we will have to wait until Tuesday night to know how things will turn out. All the conventional wisdom about the race could be totally changed at that time. Mathematically it won’t be possible for one candidate to win the nomination on Super Tuesday, but we may or may not have a clear leader. If we see a number of 51% to 49% victories the race will remain tight. If one of the candidates should win the bulk of the states by substantial margins the winner will be hard to stop. At this point anything can happen.


  1. 1
    rawdawgbuffalo says:

    I think Edwards droppin out may have one of thre outcomes. hook, line and sinker”.

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    Maybe I’m trying too hard to find significance where there is none, but it looks like prior to Jan 20th Clinton and Edwards were moving in opposite directions. Edwards went from 17 to 11 and Clinton gained 37 to 47. Then Clinton fell to 42 and Edwards gained to 15 (while Obama stayed at a constant 32-35 the whole time). In other words Edwards and Clinton supporters were trading sides. But since then, the relationship has disappeared while Obama has been steadily gaining. And especially note the last two data points – Edwards dropped a few points, but instead of Clinton picking them up, she actually dropped as well, with Obama gaining some points. Again, probably too much analysis for unreliable polls, but still interesting. And definitely reason for optimism.

  3. 3
    Christopher says:

    These numbers (I’ve reported them too) don’t take into consideration the powerful impact of having Sen. Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy campaign for Obama in California this coming weekend.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Of course not. The number show where things were in the past, not the future. With Obama already showing momentum there is plenty of hope that he will continue to move up. While there is a limit to what a surrogate can do, Kennedy helps more than most in attracting the types of Democratic voters where Obama has been the weakest compared to Clinton. Kennedy’s endorsement also helps reduce the argument that Clinton is the more qualified candiate.

  5. 5
    Christopher says:

    And the other thing is, the chattering class is claiming Edwards departure helps Hillary.

    I say, not so fast.

    Obama is the second choice for many on the left who supported Edwards. Hillary, is how many Democrats second choice? Not many.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    I fear the chattering class is right here with regards to most voters. I expect Obama to do better among bloggers and more educated Democrats, but Clinton to pick up a larger share of the downscale Democratic vote.

  7. 7
    Deb Di Gregorio says:

    OK. I’m educated. I’m leaning heavily towards Hillary. BUT I’d like to see her jump on her steed with lasso twirling, loop BILL by the ankle, tie him up and roll him off the rodeo circuit. How refreshing that would be!

  8. 8
    Christopher says:

    You have a point about Hillary’s appeal.

    Maybe the endorsement of Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy will reverse some of this? I sure hope so.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    It could. Fortunately Kennedy helps the most with the portions of the Democratic vote where Obama has been weakest compared to Clinton. Plus Edwards is down to around 12% in the polls. Even if a majority still breaks for Clinton this wouldn’t be insurmountable. With Obama’s recent momentum the Edwards supporters might wind up going more for Obama than I would have previously predicted. If Edwards supporters only go 7% to Clinton and 5% to Obama we are only talking two percent more for Obama to make up, which can be done. Of course the Edwards support varies by state, and the direction they are likely to go can also vary by state.

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