Back in September I wrote ‘In a former life, I was a pollster‘, in which I wrote about Democrat primary polls, and outlined what I would do (a twenty-one year old Sydney-sider with no political experience other than that which you get from an armchair) if I were running the Obama campaign.
At the time, Clinton was well in front on national nomination polls. The average lead that Clinton had on Obama at the time was 17 points. Now, in December, and less than a month away from the first votes, Clinton has an average 18 point lead over Obama. Some would say that this is a slip in the polls, and evidence that Obama is making no ground.
I’m going to quote myself from the previously mentioned post (not for the only time):
However, we need to look at the early states in the race to gauge what possible momentum could arise.
The momentum issue is still a big one. And, by most accounts, the Obama camp seems to be headed down that track. A few things have changed since ‘In a former life’, but certainly some things are still true. Iowa, for example, will be our first point we look at. Back in September, Clinton still had the average lead, though polls began to show Obama within 5 points to Clinton, and the first polls came out that gave Obama a lead (4 points was the biggest). But they were rare.
Now the polls speak differently. Obama has the average lead, 2.3 to date, and the past few polls have Obama and Clinton swapping the lead between each other. What is significant is that Obama is posting big leads in the polls he comes first in (8 points with Strategic Vision), while Clinton is posting 2 (Mason-Dixon) and 3 (Rasmussen) point leads. Iowa, thus, looks to have been the successful target of the Obama campaign.
It was the first idea I had in terms of gaining momentum for the campaign: Win Iowa. Target the first state hard and fast, get a victory there, and move on to the next ones with force.
The next stage of my campaign had him lessening his campaigning in New Hampshire (because he was trailing, on average, by 21 points) and focusing on South Carolina. I was half right here: He did focus on South Carolina. Even here in Australia there were clips of Obama and Oprah at a rally together in South Carolina. I can’t imagine how big an event it was in the States. With his face alongside Oprah, and an ‘endorsement’ to boot, there couldn’t have been a bigger trump card in Obama’s hand. And he chose to throw it down on South Carolina.
As a result, the latest poll out of South Carolina has Obama with a 6 point lead over Clinton. Some might say that this number is inflated due to the recent Obama and Oprah event, but it might not be that. Clinton’s previous leads in the polls there were a 2 point (Rasmussen), and 3 point (Mason-Dixon), and a 4 point (SurveyUSA) – all leading toward a tight race that Obama stood a good chance of pipping Clinton at the line. If more polls come out with Obama posting 6 points plus leads, then I think that it’s going to be Clinton struggling in the state.
It’s worth pointing out that the SurveyUSA poll had Clinton posting a 4 point lead with a figure of 44 to 40 against Obama. These sorts of high numbers (40’s) are important to note because Clinton regularly obtained them, while Obama was always battling to get into the 30’s.
Obama’s campaigning didn’t stop in New Hampshire, and, like Iowa, things have begun to rumble. The latest poll (Rasmussen) from the state has Obama with a 3 point lead! Clinton’s average lead has, in the past few months, been cut down from 21 points to a mere 3.8. The previous polls in which Clinton has led have her leading by 7 points (Suffolk/WHDH), by 3 points (Mason-Dixon), and by 1 point (CNN/WMUR). Obama-mania has swept New Hampshire up, along with Iowa and South Carolina.
I suggested, in my September post, that Florida be the next target after the two early states (Iowa and South Carolina) Obama picked up. With Florida out of contention, and Obama a good chance of winning three early states, momentum is his to take. Florida was the was to get it before – now it’s through these key states. There is no ‘big state’ indicator that early now, and the people are going to be hearing an awful lot about how Obama picked up three of the four earlies, and Clinton won Nevada only. This prospect has led the Clinton camp down the path of panic. Bill has been called in to give senior aid to the campaign. I doubt that whatever he has to say will help them now with less than 30 days to go to Iowa. Maybe he is aiming for Super Tuesday (I thought that Tsunami Tuesday had a better ring) and squashing the momentum factor. It’s the only way to stop Obama-mania at this point. Super Tuesday, for those who aren’t as informed as others, is the 5th of February, where more than half the delegates for the Democratic National Convention will choose who they will vote for. 20 states are set to vote on this day, with some of the biggest among them. While it isn’t decided by the close of the day, generally the person likely to get the nomination will have their significant lead by then.
What helps Obama is that they are all on the same day, and any swing trend towards Clinton in Clinton-esque states won’t be reported until after everyone else has voted. Also, it means that everyone is going to have exposure to the same news – that Obama nearly swept the early states.