After more than two weeks of zigzagging between Indiana and North Carolina, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can do little more today than wait and see what sort of impact the resurgence of Obama's former minister and the battle over the gas tax holiday will have on voters.
Since her April 22 victory in Pennsylvania, Clinton has turned to populism and cast herself as a friend of the little guy, advocating along with John McCain, for a gas-tax free summer. On the other hand, Barack Obama has had to contend with part deux of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal, further distancing himself from his former pastor, and has portrayed the gas tax vacation as "pandering" and a politically smooth quick fix for a bigger problem facing the country.
At stake are 187 pledged delegates—the biggest delegate prize left in the primary contests. Of the two states that hold contests today, Indiana has always been the more competitive. The Zogby poll out Monday had Obama leading by a way-too-close-to-call 2 points. However in another poll, this one conducted by Suffolk University, Clinton was ahead of Obama by 6 points in the Hoosier State. And then today, the Zogby poll showed Obama ahead in Indiana again by a statistically insignificant 2 points. The RealClearPolitics average of polls conducted in Indiana over the last week had Clinton ahead by 5 points.
While Clinton had also been moving up in North Carolina—in part because Bill Clinton has made a special effort in the state to visit small towns—the most recent polls still show her lagging behind Obama. In the last 24 hours, Obama's polling numbers have improved so much that he sits ahead of Clinton by 14 points, according to the Zogby poll out today. The RealClearPolitics average of polls taken in North Carolina over the last week has the senator from Illinois beating the senator from New York by 8 points.
Yesterday in a final push, Clinton and Obama appeared on the morning news programs and then the candidates and their politically-savvy spouses spent the day zipping between North Carolina and Indiana. Michelle Obama visited Gary, Ind., and then made two appearances in North Carolina. Bill Clinton stopped in Elizabeth City and New Bern, N.C., while Senator Clinton spent time in Winterville before jetting off to several campaign stops in Indiana. Barack Obama held a nighttime rally in Indianapolis, where he appeared alongside Stevie Wonder.
And in predictable political fashion, tonight the candidates will appear in the states where they feel they have the best shot of winning. The Obamas will hold an election night party in Raleigh, N.C., while Clinton will be in Indianapolis, where she plans to hold an "Election Night Celebration," most likely crossing her fingers that the polls showing her ahead of Obama in the Hoosier State were spot on.