Saturday, March 22, 2008

More Mixed Returns on Obama's Race Speech

Let's get the worst out of the way first: Insider Advantage polling shows the Obama speech a great big flop, especially among those who didn't actually hear it.

That sentence sounds scary... until you read the header of the web page I just linked to... the Southern Political Report. Granted, there's no obvious evidence of bias there, but...

... why does CBS News show a poll taken at the same time which gives the exact opposite result?

The Insider Advantage poll claims that the Rev. Wright issue in general, and Obama's speech in particular, make 52% of the electorate less likely to vote for Obama. CBS, on the other hand, reports that 70% of the voting populace don't care one way or the other, with only 14% less likely to vote for Obama. Both polls, by the way, claim to screen to focus solely on those who have paid attention to the controversy. These aren't the ignorant or the apathetic.

Eric Kliefeld at Talking Points Memo finds two more apparently contradictory polls, with the contradiction apparently an artifact of how the polling questions were phrased.

For me, though, the tie-breaker is today's Gallup tracking poll... which shows Obama retaking the lead over Clinton. Today is the first day that their tracking poll shows only data from interviews taken after the speech. Granted, it's also the first report after the truly awful numbers from Tuesday- the day of the speech itself- dropped off the rolling report. The next couple of days should verify if this is a trend, but I'm inclined to believe so.

Gallup suggests Friday's total reflects a one-time boost from the Bill Richardson endorsement. My view: Richardson is one more superdelegate in the Obama camp, and nothing more. Note: Obama's magic superdelegate number is now 111. If Richardson had endorsed him before Texas, or indeed before Super Tuesday, he might have had a major influence. As it is, with a Florida re-vote belly-up in the water, there are no more strongly Latino states left (except Puerto Rico, who are not the same Latinos as what my less educated neighbors call "them damn Mexikins"). Richardson has no coattails, no real influence, just one superdelegate vote. He won't lead a flood of superdelegates to Obama, nor at this stage will this trigger a slew of Clinton defections. He doesn't even bring a substantial voting bloc with him- remember, his best performance was a pathetic 4% in Iowa.

No, I think Gallup's Friday results had nothing to do with Richardson... and everything to do with voters either beginning to forget about Rev. Wright or, more important, accepting that Obama has dealt with the issue and that Obama has sound, even profound views on race. Conservatives will continue to bring Rev. Wright up, but Obama has demonstrated that he can and will respond effectively. He's stopped the bleeding. What remains to be seen is: can he build a new lead and begin pushing Clinton out of the race once and for all?

Now what we need is post-speech polling from Pennsylvania and North Carolina. There's just barely been time for such polls to be taken, calculated and released since the Tuesday speech, had anybody been inclined to do so. I'm not surprised that none have been released so far... but I am very, very interested to see how they come out, in comparison with recent polls taken during the Wright brouhaha that showed Clinton and Obama even in North Carolina, and Clinton beating Obama by between eleven and twenty-six percentiles in Pennsylvania.

One final note: my own reaction to the speech remains the same- that Obama did not answer the concerns that working-class white people, particularly the southern-Baptist types that form much of Clinton's base, have about Wright and Obama's twenty-year membership at his church. To a certain extent Obama supporters and media commentators have picked up the slack, reminding others that worshippers will continue going to a church even when they disagree with the pastor of the moment.

It also doesn't hurt that the continual play that the right-wing forces- talk radio hosts, FOX News, certain 527s- have given the Wright issue are producing a growing backlash. The more they use the issue, the more they anger people who don't already support McCain. (And the more they do it, the more they invite left-wing 527s to start talking about the various looney preachers McCain's been cozying up to. Hagee is only the tip of a large iceberg there...)

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