Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama passes Clinton in Gallup tracking poll

by Frank James

Gallup's latest tracking poll shows what Sen. Barack Obama's campaign had hoped for and what Sen. Hillary Clinton's had feared, that the senator from Illinois's momentum would continue to eat into Clinton's core supporters--women, Hispanics and hard-core Democrats.

This is how Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones put it:

PRINCETON, NJ -- The momentum in the Democratic nomination race has clearly swung toward Barack Obama. Not only has he won all of the post-Super Tuesday contests, but he has steadily gained in Gallup Poll Daily tracking to the point where he has overtaken Clinton as the national leader for the first time, holding a statistically significant lead in each of the last three tracking poll results.

Obama's standing has improved among most Democratic subgroups over the past several days. But one of the more substantial shifts has been the changing preferences of middle-aged Democratic voters, who have moved away from Clinton and toward Obama in the past week. Obama has also made gains among three other groups that have favored Clinton throughout much of the campaign -- women, Hispanics, and self-identified Democrats. Obama and Clinton are now running even among these three key groups in the most recent Gallup tracking data...

Throughout the campaign, exit polls have shown that Obama has appealed to younger voters, and Clinton to older voters. Even as the momentum has swung in Obama's favor, those basic relationships at opposite ends of the age spectrum still hold. The change in recent days has been in middle-aged Democratic voters' preferences. In the Feb. 5-9 period, Clinton led among Democratic voters aged 35 to 54 by a 49% to 42% margin. Now, Obama is the leader among this group by 51% to 42%.

If this shift of voters Clinton has relied on until now proves real and lasting, it would arguably make it next to impossible for her to perform as well as she needs to in the remaining states holding primaries, especially Texas and Ohio on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22 to capture the nomination.

But as we all should know by now, the only thing that matters is actual votes at polling places. So while the graph showing Obama's momentum is interesting, it's really got to taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Still, if you had to choose one, you'd obviously rather have Obama's curve than Clinton's.

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