Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clinton: The First Defection

Today's news cycle is all about the apparent revival of Hillary Clinton's campaign. This revival is based on two things: first, her taking the gloves off and attacking Obama (again) for lacking substance and being unwilling to debate; second, because of new polls in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and two polls in Ohio (here and here) showing Clinton neck and neck with Obama in Wisconsin and up by very large margins indeed in the other two states.

First, it's no surprise that Clinton is going negative. Negative campaigning is the only tool in the Clinton kit that has ever worked for them. Positive campaigning cost Clinton his first re-election campaign as Arkansas governor; ever since then, both candidates have taken the low road early and often. Obama, however, has proven that he can rise above Clinton attack ads and speech talking points- indeed, he can use those attacks to win as he did in South Carolina and in a majority of Tsunami Tuesday states.

Second, the polls reveal nothing new except possibly in Wisconsin, where another poll showed Obama up by nine points only a couple of days ago. We know that the polls tend to understate Obama's support, especially among independents. Let's look at the Quinnipiac polls in Ohio and Pennsylvania- showing Clinton up 55 - 34 in the former, 52 - 36 in the latter... The poll, however, focused solely on self-declared Democrats- it did not include independents.

Most of the Democratic primaries and caucuses this year had an unprecedentedly high turnout of independents and aisle-crossing Republicans- about 25% of the total vote. Almost without exception these voters have gone two to one for Obama. Let's factor in those votes into the total, and we get an adjusted projection- Clinton still ahead, but by much less- of 50-42 in Ohio, 47-44 in Pennsylvania.

And that's before Obama campaigns in those states. His numbers always go up, and Clinton's down, in states where he campaigns personally.

So the reasons that Clinton was the big story in politics today- until Mitt Romney announced his endorsement of John McCain- are, all in all, pretty damn weak.

For the most part, though, they succeeded in drowning out the one genuinely interesting bit of news today, even more interesting than the Republican walking out of the House of Representatives just long enough to tell the press how tough they were on spying on American citizens and protecting telecom corporations from their own crimes... before walking right back in again.

Here it is: NJ Superdelegate Switches to Obama.

There we are: the first defection from Clinton's clutch of superdelegates.

The switch took a week: she first announced she was undecided on Feb. 8, blaming Bill Clinton's negative attacks on Barack Obama.

"I'm disappointed in a few things that were said a few weeks ago by President Clinton," she said. "I'm going to have to revisit what I'm going to do between now and when we vote."

. . .

Samuels, a member of the Democratic National Committee and the executive committee of the state NAACP, also said she was troubled by Hillary Clinton's comments that Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That's the first one out the door on Clinton. If she doesn't stop Obama cold in Wisconsin, expect more to follow. More may follow anyway, if her current negative campaigning backfires the way her first batch did in South Carolina.

1 comment:

Murdock said...

I can't speak to the Ohio numbers, but at least in Pennsylvania independants will be a non-factor. Under state law, independants can't vote in primaries. Only those regestered as Democrats 30 days before the primary can vote in the Democratic primary. As a result, the Quinnipiac poll results for Pennsylvania are closer to accurate than you're indicating.