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For Whom the Poll Tolls, It Tolls For Thee

March 27, 2008

The WSJ/NBC polls of yesterday were all the talk of the chat shows last night. You can see the numbers at a glance here.

The polls wanted to test whether Obama got hurt by the Rev. Wright story. He did . . . but not much, in spite of the efforts of Sean Hannity and the Clinton campaign team (now that’s a pair, ain’t it?). Even among his conservative support, he only lost significant points among older Southern White voters, voters who were always going to McCain in the end. As far as Chris Wallace is concerned, he’s still America’s Favorite Black Guy.

Looks like my first instincts were correct, sorry ACK.

Two things happened. The speech, of course. It worked. Second, most people didn’t really care as much as we bloggers and journalists and those of us who are both. Over half the White survey respondents were satisfied with Obama’s answering questions about Wright. There was a significant amount who held no opinion or didn’t know. So considering that his overall support held fast, we see that even among those 35% of Whites surveyed who found his response to the matter lacking, the issue just isn’t the deal breaker some would like it to be. Casual observation tells us this; the most vociferous complainers about the Wright matter are Republicans, or perhaps more specifically hard right and religious conservatives.

Obama is still vulnerable to more attacks in the general election where he would have to compete with McCain over independent voters. Sure, McCain has his Hagee to deal with and so is inclined not to want to bring up loose associations to religious leaders. Still, there is nothing to stop inter meddlers from bring it up. Maybe the press screams “racism” and forces McCain to denounce and reject, maybe not. Still, Obama according to this poll, has a better chance against McCain than Clinton.

What these numbers mean for Clinton is that most people don’t dig the tactics by her team. I think many pin the blame for the negative campaigning on her tail, blame her for the Wright story (I know many Black people do) and are reminded of the kind of negativity in the air during the last term of Bill’s reign, rightly or wrongly.

Two things again. I don’t know about a “kitchen sink” strategy however Clinton’s team does appear to think that their best chance includes driving Obama’s negatives up. It’s a little late for that. Most Democrats have made up their mind about him, and their feelings about him are positive, even among many Clinton supporters.

Her team has done little to increase Clinton’s positive ratings; she started the race relatively low and has remained low. The New Hampshire moment offered a real opportunity for them to capitalize on “the tear” and peel away the perception of Clinton as a cold, calculating Lady MacBeth figure. Instead, they kept hammering away at “experience” and “ready on day one” and that has backfired. Now that figures in her key claims to foreign policy experience, Bosnia and Northern Island, are coming forth to denounce and reject her claims, that rug is being slowly tugged from under her feet.

However, among the folks who really seem to matter most given the current delegate count, the problem is strong arm tactics. Apparently, superdelegates are being pressured hard by Clinton and supporters – the Carville comment comparing Bill Richardson to Judas being a very visible example. At this point most of the supers still want to play nice with the Clintons mainly because of their ability to fill a ball room at a fundraising event. If the nastiness continues, look for them to get tough.

They’ll get tough because they’re afraid the campaigning is getting too tough. Go back to the poll numbers. Many Obama supporters say they will vote McCain over Clinton if Clinton is the nominee. Even more Clinton supporters say they will vote McCain over Obama if Obama is the nominee. No old school, back room deal making, yellow dawg Democrat wants this to happen. As Chuck Todd says, those numbers could change or disappear by the general election IF the in fighting slows down. If the bloodletting doesn’t stop, those numbers will harden.

So I have to ask, where is the party leadership? Is everyone waiting until Pennsylvania, giving Sen. Clinton her last big victory until they demand the wagons are circled? Rep. Pelosi has been dropping hint bombs for the last month, however stops short of calling the race for Obama. Sen. Reid suggests that Dr. Dean has a plan and isn’t sweating all this. Since Dean poo-poohed Gov. Bredesen’s superdelegate primary idea and doesn’t sound as if he plans to seat the rogue delegates in Florida and Michigan, I have no idea what that would be. Perhaps Pelosi, Reid, VP Gore and John Kerry (Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion) will march over to the Chappaqua spot and deliver the bad news. Then Bill will give Gore a heart, Kerry courage, Reid a brain and send Pelosi back to her office with a $100,000 soft money check for the DCCC.

There are a lot of smart (?) people who believe there’s nothing wrong with Sen. Clinton taking her fight to the convention. Perhaps not. Just . . . when you can’t win, don’t damage the definitive winner.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2008 4:55 pm

    Dean’s plan is that before the convention, Obama will have won the most delegates, the most of the popular vote, and the most primaries, and will poll strongly against McCain. So that by any standard of decision-making, the superdelegates will mostly line up behind him. No messy quarrels about FL or MI (their delegates will be seated, but won’t give Clinton the numerical edge), no brokered convention, and a complete vindication of Dean’s own 50-state strategy. That’s what I think his plan is, anyway.

  2. March 27, 2008 7:08 pm

    That’s likely what he’s thinking, but is it a plan? I guess that outcome is just obvious to just over half the Dem voters plus MSM plus GOP observers, just a few hold outs from reality.

    The pundit class has been wanting to keep the race alive however I think their attention is beginning to fade in this lull between primaries and they are ready to start writing their think pieces on race

  3. March 28, 2008 10:01 am

    Well, I think the “plan” part of it is that Dean is talking to the superdelegates behind the scenes. And I’m guessing that what he’s talking to them about is the 50 state strategy, and how nice it would be to have a working majority in both houses of Congress instead of 50% + 1, and how nice it would be to be able to strip Lieberman of his seniority, and stuff like that. And, um, reminding them which candidate talks and acts in terms of 50% + 1, and which talks and acts in terms of 50 states. He has been far more effective pushing the 50 state thing than anyone expected him to be when he took over as party chair, and it could be that they’ll listen to him.

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