02 March 2008

Heading toward Hillary?

Earlier this week former (Bill) Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said on CNBC's Hardball that she felt the races coming up on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas were moving toward Hillary Clinton.

I don't remember her exact words, but that was the gist of her comment.

When Chris Matthews jumped down her throat asking her what she based that opinion on, Myers paused for a brief moment and then said "my golden gut."

I have to say as we reach the end of the final weekend of the Ohio/Texas campaign I'm feeling the same way, based on little more than my considerable gut.

Having spent the first 27 years of my life in Cleveland - six of those years covering politics - I think I have a bit of a handle on Ohio's political make-up.

I look at today's (Cleveland) Plain Dealer survey, which shows Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by four points (47%-43%) and I have no cause to doubt the poll is accurate.

You have to look beyond the surface numbers to determine that, indeed, those results appear to be pretty solid.

Clinton leads among women (53-38), people over 50 (54-36) and union households (56-34) - three key components of her coalition. That she leads those groups is not surprising, but the size of her lead among those groups is larger than it has been in many of the recent contests

The same can be said about the white vote, where Clinton holds a commanding 58%-32% lead.

Clinton has a 23-point lead in southeast Ohio, a sparsely populated part of the state which is dirt poor and in the foothills of Appalachia. Clearly Clinton remains appealing to low-income voters, which will be key in a state that has been stung more than most by lost jobs and home repossessions.

Perhaps a larger key for Clinton is her 47%-43% lead in northeast Ohio, which is the most populous part of the state and includes Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown. These are all cities that have been devastated by the effects of NAFTA, but also the part of the state that has a much larger percentage of African Americans than other regions.

Clinton also leads in northwestern Ohio (53-38), which has Toledo as its largest population center.

Obama's strength is in central part of the state (46-43) and the southwest (52-36).

Central Ohio's population center is Columbus, easily the most progressive city in a not-very-progressive state. It's the home of Ohio State University and the state government. It also has the most highly educated electorate of any region in the state. What's surprising is that Obama's lead here is only three points.

The southwest population center is Cincinnati - home of the iconic Taft family, a leading Republican force in Ohio politics for more than 100 years. The pro-Obama vote here is more likely an anti-Hillary vote.

Only 8% of those polled by the Plain Dealer said it was possible they would change their mind before Tuesday, and they are evenly split among Obama and Clinton supporters. It's unlikely when these votes play out that they will bring about any overall shift in support.

Obama's best hope for an upset lies with two groups - the 9% statewide who say they remain undecided and independents, among whom Obama is favored 53%-33%.

If Obama can turn out independents in huge numbers and he can win the last two news cycles and move the undecideds into his camp, he can win.

Clinton has never trailed in the polls in the Buckeye State, and although Obama has cut her lead sharply over the past couple of weeks, I'm going to say Ohio will be a win for Hillary.

In Texas, the latest polls show Obama ahead, but by only a point or three.

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram puts Obama ahead by 1 point.

The other recent Texas polls are equally inconclusive.

Whether it was her complaint of unfair treatment by the media finally getting traction, her performance in the latest debate in Cleveland or her tenacious campaigning, something has happened this week that seems to have stopped the bleeding for the Clinton.

Clearly no unexpected, Wisconsin-like blowout for Obama is in the offing.

The question is whether Clinton can spin one, and possibly two, very narrow wins in Tuesday's big primaries into an argument for her continued candidacy.

I'm going to predict we'll see a lot more of Clinton on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.

No comments: