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Friday, January 25, 2008

Barack Obama, South Carolina Polls, and the Expectations Game

(Editor's note: Uninspiring debate from the Republicans last night, though maybe that was their intention after the Democratic slugfest. Next week, I will dedicate the first three days of posts to the Republicans and their crucial Florida Primary. For now, time to preview tomorrow's South Carolina Democratic Primary.)

The four latest major polls from South Carolina:

Survey USA (1/22-1/23)
Barack Obama: 45
Hillary Clinton: 29
John Edwards: 22

Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby (1/21-1/23)
BA: 39
HC: 24
JE: 19

Clemson (1/15-1/23)
BA: 27
HC: 20
JE: 17

Rasmussen (1/21)
BA: 32
HC: 28
JE: 17

Average of the four:
BA: 38
HC: 25
JE: 19

Analysis: For Barack Obama, this is setting up to be the least gratifying and least useful early primary victory in the history of early primary victories. Aside from winning, there are two objectives every candidate hopes to achieve in a primary election:

1. Beat expectations.
2. Convince voters in subsequent primaries to vote for them.

Obama's impending South Carolina win will not achieve either of those objectives. These polls are not helping. He is expected to win by double digits. Therefore, since one cannot win by triple digits, the best he can do is meet expectations. To win by only 7-9 percent would be seen as a disappointment considering African-Americans are expected to be about 50% of South Carolina voters. Even a 20-point victory, when compared to a 12-point win, would do nothing but add a few more delegates to his total. The day-after stories will be unaffected.

This brings me to the second objective. No matter how well he does, the performance will be chalked up to overwhelming African-American support, which I expounded on with Tuesday's post. There will not be a bounce in Obama's national polls numbers, and with no relevant primaries between South Carolina and Super Tuesday (the Florida Democratic Party has been stripped of its delegates for pushing ahead of February 5th), his last best shot at cutting Clinton's lead will come and go. At best, Obama can hope for no recourse from mainstream white voters. Realistically, there could be combined conscious and subconscious efforts from white voters across the country to correct the South Carolina vote. At worst, it will be an overcorrection that will sink the Obama campaign.

To recap the week for the Dems: Clinton is the nominee, because Obama cannot win unless Edwards drops out by Super Tuesday.


See you next week, when I take a close look at Tuesday's Florida Primary for the GOP candidates, and if McCain wins, it will be time to re-visit the VP possibilities for Senators Clinton and McCain.

5 comments:

isabelle said...

salut ian,
je ne comprends rien mais je suis très fière de te savoir engagé en politique et en histoire....
what is your email address

vacosait@yahoo.fr

isabelle said...

and a picture please...

Adam said...

The Associated Press, "...Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as "the black candidate," a tag that could hurt him outside the South."

Do you think the Clinton campaign might have intentionally highlighted the race issue for the benefits which you have discussed?

Either way, I just started reading your blog a couple days ago... started with the beginning of January and read up to the present post. Just wanted to say I like reading what you have to say, and your predictions have been pretty damn good. Keep the articles coming! Thanks.

Adam said...

One more thing...

What are the odds of Edwards dropping out if he gets third in S.C.?

If Edwards were to drop out (if only he were that altruistic) how much does that affect the odds of Obama becoming the Dem nominee?

IC said...

Hi, Isabelle!

Adam, yes, I think the Clintons purposefully highlighted the race issue. They punted South Carolina in favor of the rest of the country. Their 51% strategy will be discussed lated in the week, as will Edwards' new status as Kingmaker at the Democratic Convention if he stays in the race until the end.

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