Ohio and Texas Trend to Obama

Although she leads in many categories, the latest numbers for the March 4 primary states are not good for Clinton.

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The latest poll numbers from Texas and Ohio are not good news for Hillary Clinton. The realclearpolitics.com average has her ahead of Barack Obama by only 49 to 46 percent. She leads by a statistically insignificant 48 to 47 percent in the ABC/Washington Post poll and 47 to 44 percent in Rasmussen.

ABC/WaPo has the following ethnic breakdown:

  Clinton Obama
White women 56 39
White men 43 53
Blacks 18 76
Hispanics 59 36

Rasmussen has:

  Clinton Obama
Whites 52 39
Blacks 17 74
Other 56 35

These are pretty ominous numbers for Clinton, particularly since Texas selects 127 delegates in the primary but also an additional 67 in caucuses that evening. There are nearly 1,000 caucus sites, and Obama should have a huge organizational advantage.

In Ohio, ABC/WaPo has Clinton ahead by 50 to 43 percent. That's better for her than Texas but hardly an insurmountable lead. Particularly if Obama has a 3-1 or 4-1 advantage in TV advertising, as he did in Wisconsin.

Here's an interesting counterfactual. What if Obama had not run? Then Clinton would probably have had the kind of lock on black voters that Obama has now (but didn't have, at least in heavily polled South Carolina, up through December: See the latest December survey by SurveyUSA). John Edwards would not have been much of a competitor for black votes: He was getting just about zero black votes all the way through in his native state of South Carolina. Clinton would have carried the southern states Obama carried, without much effort, with overwhelming black support.

Or suppose that the black vote remained split between the two candidates, as it was in South Carolina throughout 2007? Clinton would have run much better and would probably have clinched the nomination on Super Tuesday. Did Bill Clinton throw away black votes by his campaigning in South Carolina? As satisfying as it may be for Clinton haters to assume so, I think another factor was very much in play: Obama's victory in nearly lily-white Iowa. That gave many black voters assurance that white voters wouldn't reject a black candidate. Iowa in effect made the Deep South Obama country rather than Clinton country. Would Clinton have been better off skipping Iowa, as some on her staff recommended last summer? Maybe, maybe not. If Edwards had beaten Obama in Iowa, she probably would have been; but who knows? Then maybe Obama would have won in New Hampshire (where Edwards was never strong), with the same effect as in Iowa. It's beginning to look like Clinton and her strategists will have plenty of time to mull over these counterfactuals.