Monday, March 03, 2008

Hillary's last stand ... or back to trench warfare?

Tomorrow we'll see the next round of primaries--in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. I think it's safe to predict that McCain will win these states and nail down the Republican nomination (though an anti-McCain vote for Huckabee in Texas might be big enough to embarrass him). But what's going to happen on the Democratic side? Frankly, who knows?

If Obama wins Texas and Ohio, or if he wins either of them decisively, then that might deliver the knockout punch to the whole Clinton campaign. In fact, it may be that a failure by Clinton to win both states decisively would be enough to make her campaign unsustainable, even if she ekes out very narrow victories. So tomorrow could, conceivably, mark the effective end of the Democratic nomination contest. Then again, perhaps not.

It may be unkind to overlook Rhode Island (which Clinton will probably win)and Vermont (where Obama may well win), but the sad truth is that in electoral terms they are dwarfed by Texas and Ohio. (There are a total of 334 delegates at stake in Texas & Ohio, versus a total of 36 in Rhode Island and Vermont.)

=> Greg Sargent at TPM sums up the latest round of polls in Ohio:
The new SurveyUSA poll finds that Hillary has successfully stopped -- and reversed -- Obama's momentum in Ohio.

She leads him by 10 points -- 54%-44% -- a spread that's up from six points a week ago (though overall, it's down from the 17-point lead she held three weeks ago).

One potentially key finding from the survey: She leads him by 13% among the early voting. If this is correct, the pollsters say, Obama would need to carry Primary Day precinct voters 52% to 48% if he is to win Ohio.

Hillary has also expanded her Ohio lead in polls from Rasmussen [JW: 50%-44%] and Public Policy Polling (D) [JW: 51%-42%], while slipping in Quinnipiac [JW: 49%-45%] and Zogby. [JW: The Zogby poll, unlike the others, shows Obama ahead in Ohio, though only by 47%-45%. Then again, most of Zogby's predictions for Super Tuesday, including the one that called for Obama to win California, were wildly off.] On the whole, her lead appears to have gone up.

Of course, in the end, a Hillary victory in Ohio doesn't mean much at all if she loses in Texas.
=> Well, how about Texas? According to Chris Bowers, whose estimates accord with most of the others I've seen, it's "a real nailbiter":
New polls this morning from Suffolk in Ohio, Public Strategies in Texas (PDF), and Zogby in both states. Looking only at the seven Texas polls conducted since Wednesday, here is the current average in Texas:

Texas, 2/27-3/2, seven polls
Obama: 46.6%
Clinton: 45.7%

That is a real nailbiter. I think Obama will pull it out, because there are more indications that early voting favors him than Clinton, and because he tends to outperform polling more often than Clinton. However, both candidates still clearly have a shot to win the primary portion of the Texas nominating contest, which could be the difference to Clinton staying in the campaign after Tuesday, and Obama becoming the presumptive nominee.

Ohio tells a different story, one where Clinton is favored:

Ohio, 2/26-3/2, six nine polls
Clinton: 49.4%
Obama: 42.7%

Obama made up a lot of ground in Ohio, but it does not appear to be enough. With significant early voting underway, it would be a real shock if he won here. Zogby shows him moving ahead in the state--the first poll to do so--but Suffolk still shows Clinton up by 12%. My feeling is that both polls are wrong, and the truth lies in between. I expect Clinton to win Ohio by 3-5%, which puts a lot of pressure on Texas to decide whether the nomination campaign moves forward or not.

For more polls, always check out
And whichever candidate wins the popular vote in the Texas primary, the final delegate counts will also be also be affected by the caucuses later that night and by an arcane process for allocating delegates in which different districts are weighted differently based on Democratic turnout in the last election (etc.)

=> To add one more voice to this mix, my friend Perry Deess (who is not a Clinton supporter) offers the following bold prediction:
Mark my words. The campaign dynamic has shifted. Hillary is back and she will carry 3 of 4 races tomorrow--in the popular vote.

Obama may get a majority of delegates in Texas, but she will claim the popular vote.

Like a WWI groundhog, I have seen my shadow and forecast at least 6 more weeks of trench warfare.
Then again, maybe Obama will crush Clinton in tomorrow's primaries and knock her out of the race. Stay tuned.

--Jeff Weintraub