Sunday, April 27, 2008

Indiana The "Tiebreaker"?

Barack Obama, referring to the upcoming open primary in Indiana:
"You know, Sen. Clinton is more favored in Pennsylvania,” he added, “and I'm right now a little more favored in North Carolina, so Indiana right now may end up being the tiebreaker."

The "tiebreaker" comment has been seized upon, which has tended to put even more emphasis on Indiana. In retrospect, probably not terribly smart politically for Obama to raise the bar on one state, especially when you possess all the "it's over" arguments. With that said, there is really no reason why Obama can't win Indiana, when you add up the intangibles, the demographics, it really is a "fair" state for both sides.

If you look at the polls, you see a statistical deadheat, no sense that one side has any real advantage heading into the final 10 days of campaigning. What I am saying, there are no built-in excuses for either campaign, no rational reason to not see Indiana as competitive and telling.

Should Obama win in North Carolina and Indiana May 6, Clinton will be forced to drop out, it's just that simple. Should Clinton win Indiana and keep it relatively close in North Carolina, then the emerging concerns about Obama are elevated, fair agreement that we enter a real period of unknown.

I was struck by Howard Dean's recent comments, which represent a clear departure from his pre-Penn rhetoric:
The Democrats’ national chairman, Howard Dean, told The Financial Times in an article on Friday: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”
h/t Wise Law Blog

Dean basically acknowledges that the last "six or eight races" will gel "perception" about who is best suited to lead the Democrats. Who can win, as opposed to who has pledged delegates, who has popular vote. As pointed out in the link, Dean does Clinton a favor with this frame. On the other hand, as I've said all along, Obama just needs to win some crucial primaries in the last half of this primary season to end all the debate, his fate is very much in his own hands.

If the debate becomes one of electability, recent history would tend to favor Obama, the perception that he can draw independents, expand the Democrats base. As we move forward, that earlier truth is becoming less apparent, the earlier Obama advantage looks largely muted. Gallup has the race tied, with Clinton actually doing better in the head to head with McCain, for the first time that I can remember. A recent Newsweek poll, which had Obama up 19 points a week ago, is down to 7, with some concerning internals for Obama. Even more concerning, Obama's appeal to independents appears on the wane, no real advantage over Clinton:
Obama vs McCain:

Independents 45-43 for Obama

Clinton vs McCain:

Independents 45-44 for McCain

The supposed strong suit, appeal to the mushy middle, isn't really an advantage. Couple that fact with a growing problem with white voters, a disturbing racial pattern, and you may see cause for concern. Important to remember that African American voters make up a much larger percentage of Democratic primary voters, than they do a general election, nevermind the fact that in many states, the high population come in firm RED terrority.

That's the backdrop, which does lend credence to the Indiana as "tiebreaker" idea. It really provides an excellent opportunity for Obama to quell the concerns, secure the nomination, move forward. There are no real excuses, Obama has many advantages that work in his favor, enough to counter the pro-Hillary state argument. Indiana is a good measure, and I put more faith in a result there, than I do all the spin coming from both camps. Win Indiana, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania are forgotten, Obama seals the deal. Lose Indiana, delegates aside, one has to wonder what is happening, the inevitable one losing key contest after key contest to Mrs. "No Chance". That's ridiculous on every level, there is no reason why Obama shouldn't win, no reason to fluff off the later voters as somehow irrelevant.

Knock her out, or give Clinton life, ultimately Obama controls the narrative. No excuses, no spin, just win Indiana. Seems a reasonable frame, and really there is no reason why the supposed presumptive nominee shouldn't win, in a state that oozes "fair contest".


Anonymous said...

Two states that went Republican in 2000 and 2004, which has a strong chance of going Democrat in 2008. The person who bats 2 for 2 deserves to win the nomination, as they gain traction in wooing centrists and/or Reagan Democrats.

Also note Hillary's numbers in North Carolina. Has Obama's recent speeches led him to lose support among white voters there? This is assuming that Obama went into PA trailing by nine and did not gain much there.

Indiana is similar to Iowa and Missouri, a Midwest state that favoured Obama. The sole red state on the map. A Hillary win there enhances her reputation as the comeback kid and leaves the questions raised after PA unanswered.

Steve V said...


The last Survey USA poll, which has a very good record, gives Clinton a wide lead in North Carolina with whites:

Clinton 56%
Obama 33%

Obama leads 83% to 10% with African-Americans, which is why he has the edge, that population will make up 40% of the vote.

Claude said...

Way to cherrypick the numbers. That newsweek poll was way off last week. Every other poling firm was showing essentially a dead heat or a small lead for Obama. And second of all Clinton's white numbers are inflated by white women who are voting for her by more then 2 to 1 who are the biggest part of the overall democrat electorate. In the general election most of these democrat white women will most likely vote democrat. Obama is doing much better among white independents and republicans. For example today's Rasmussen tracking poll shows that among whites McCain leads Obama by twelve and Clinton by eleven. Hardly a major difference there, but among African Americans Hillary gets only 59% of the AA vote whereas Obama does very well. I'm sorry but no democrat can ever expect to win the general election with only 59% of the african american vote. In every past election blacks have voted for the democrats by 9 to 1. Hillary winning only 59% of that demographic is very very troubling for her election chances. Now you may argue that many of these people are just saying that they won't vote for Hillary in the heat of the moment, right, but it clearly shows that many of these voters will be unmotivated if the nomination is stolen for Obama and may have a low turnout. African americans might be be a smaller part of the general election electorate but they are very important for the democrats, low AA turnout in several key midwestern states can flip the state to the republicans. For example, even if the African American turnout is only 10% lower in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin perhaps even michigan it is next to impossible for her to win these states and no democrat especially a traditional one like Hillary can expect to win the GE after losing both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If the superdelates take the nomination away from Obama after he has the most elected delegates they will be inviting their own defeat in november.

Steve V said...

"Way to cherrypick the numbers."

Oh please, it's the same polling outfit, with results one week apart. A very well respected poll I might add. Did I make up the independents numbers?

And, if you think any Democrat will only get 59% of the African American vote in a general election, you have no clue.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis of the role Indiana can play. Obama should be able to seal the deal there. Also, the Independents numbers are interesting. Independents love McCain and he is a much bigger draw for them than Obama, regardless of what the polls indicate. Hillary brings out the core Demcratic constituents, all the states won by the Democrat in the last election + Ohio, Florida and Arkansas.

Steve V said...


One other point, people point to potential pickup states for Obama. That is an intriguing scenario, but it tends to only tell half the story. Polls also show Obama losing in Ohio and Florida, which would make these theoretical gains meaningless.

Claude said...

Oh please, it's the same polling outfit, with results one week apart. A very well respected poll I might add. Did I make up the independents numbers?

Well respected? They were showing a 19 point lead for Obama whereas every other poling company during the same period was showing 2-6 points lead for Obama. Newsweek has been an outlier.

And, if you think any Democrat will only get 59% of the African American vote in a general election, you have no clue.

I did not say that Clinton will get only 59% AA vote but that Clinton's poor numbers among this group indicates a lack of enthusiasm towards her which could lead to a low AA turnout, which will flip many of the key midwestern states to McCain.

One other point, people point to potential pickup states for Obama. That is an intriguing scenario, but it tends to only tell half the story. Polls also show Obama losing in Ohio and Florida, which would make these theoretical gains meaningless.

Polls are also showing Clinton on an average losing to McCain in Florida and Ohio. In case of Ohio she is losing by almost the same margin as Obama Not only that she also trailing McCain in states like Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon (Obama is doing very well in these states). The only state in which Hillary has a sizable advantage over Obama is Florida but Florida is going o be very very difficult for any democrat to win, they have a Republican congress, a republican governor who is very popular and McCain has a good reputation in the state. In anycase is it really smart to nominate someone who could lose democrat leaning swing states like wiscosin and minnesota just because they might have an outside chance at winning Florida?

On the other hand Obama brings Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Iowa into play (states where Hillary has been polling poorly). He is even polling very strongly in republican strongholds like Indiana(where he is leading McCain by 8 points) and North Carolina(where he is tied with McCain). Obama is clearly the smarter choice for Dems. Dems can no longer afford to put all their eggs in one basket of Ohio and Florida, it didn't get them too far in 2000 & 2004. By changing the electoral map Obama gives the democrats a lot more margin for error hence making him a better and more electable candidate.

Steve V said...


Talk about cherry picking, maybe should look at some more polls of Ohio and Florida. Obama loses badly in Florida, Clinton basically tied. Clinton within the margin of error, Obama 12 points back. In Ohio, Clinton leads, while Obama loses. Those are the averages, no CHERRY PICKING. You're the one spinning, I'm just going by the average. What about Missouri?

Newsweek has a good, overall, reputation. I found that number high, but others were trending Obama too in a bigger way, plenty of 10% leads. You can see trends by looking at the same pollster, and the big shift for Newsweek in one week, does say something.

Steve V said...

Oh ya, and get your facts straight. Obama TRAILS McCain by 8 in Indiana. Obama also trails by 9 in Virginia, interestingly Clinton more competitive in West Virginia.

The fact you need to exaggerate to make you point, means there isn't much there, once you do a state by state analysis. Whatever potential gains are clearly offset by potential weakness.