Posted: February 4, 2008 6:53 PM
Ahead of Tuesday, Democratic Poll Numbers Show Tight Race
At least five national polls conducted over the weekend show a statistical dead heat between Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In three polls — conducted by USA Today/Gallup, Washington Post/ABC News and the Pew Research Center — Clinton edged out Obama by one to eight percentage points, respectively, while Obama led in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll by 3 percent; the two candidates are tied at 41 percent in a CBS News poll.
Though the race is close and the polls fluid, Obama has clearly closed in on Clinton’s double-digit national lead from mid-January. The Illinois senator showed a 12-point surge in the Pew Research survey since the Iowa caucuses last month, while Clinton’s support had not changed over that time period.
This latest shift may suggest that “the withdrawal of Edwards from the race has really helped Obama more than it’s helped Clinton,” according to Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.
Obama’s support has seen gains from across a spectrum of voting groups, with the most significant increases among white males, the middle class and middle-aged voters, polls showed. Clinton’s support, however, remains strong among white females, the elderly and conservative Democrats, the Pew poll found.
The economy is now the top concern weighing on voters’ minds heading into Tuesday’s contests, an issue that shows Clinton earning more support. Among those who cite the Iraq war as their main concern, Clinton’s lead is smaller
But Kohut said that of the primary races so far this year, exit polls show “almost no correlation between the issues that the voters say are important to them and the candidates they choose.” Instead, Kohut said, “It’s all about personal qualities — seeing Barack Obama as the agent of change to a greater extent than Hillary Clinton, or looking at her and saying, she has more experience, she’s more capable.”
Looking at some of the key Super Tuesday races, Clinton and Obama each have states where they are expected to do well.
Though both senators continue to maintain a lead in their home states, Obama has managed to cut down Clinton’s lead in New York, a key race that yields its 232 delegates proportionally to the vote in each congressional district. Earlier polls showed Obama trailing Clinton by as much as 25 percent, but two recent surveys by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute and Marist College show that Obama is now only 14 and 15 percent behind, respectively.
New Jersey is also shaping up to be a closer race for its 107 delegates than expected; several polls show the pair either tied or within 6 percentage points, with Clinton taking the edge, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“New Jersey has become a sort of bellwether: It’s perceived to be a state that Hillary Clinton should be winning by a landslide, and the fact that her lead is narrowing reflects what’s going on nationally,” Philip Klinkner, government professor at Hamilton College in New York, told the Los Angeles Times.
Obama has also closed in on Clinton in California, where he earned the support of the state’s first lady Maria Shriver as well as the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.
A variety of polls show a narrow race in the Golden State, with Clinton ahead in most, but not all, cases.
Whatever the results of Tuesday’s contests may be, many doubt that the outcome will yield a clear Democratic front-runner for the nomination.
“This is a hunt for delegates,” Clinton strategist Mark Penn told the Washington Times Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed that sentiment. “What everyone once thought was going to end on Feb. 5 is really just going to be the next hurdle,” he told the Times.