Democrats

Obama, Democrats rising - the race is going through a structural evolution

Two central dynamics are now taking over the Presidential campaign - the enormous, even historic, structural advantage of the Democrats, and Obama's new "surge", brought about through the early stages of his imminent victory over Senator Clinton.

Poll after poll these last few years have documented the emergence of a whole new political dynamic in American politics - the end of the conservative ascendency, the collapse of the GOP brand and the rise of the Democratic brand. Simply put, the country is more Democratic today than it has been since at least 1982 and perhaps all the way back to the 1960s. Today's Washington Post has a new national poll which again captures the yawning gap between the two parties, and the strong wind blowing behind the Democrats as they head into 2008 (for further evidence of this note huge fundraising and turnout advantage for the Dems so far in 2008).

A big looming question over the Presidential race has always been would the Democratic nominee be able to match the 10-15 spread between the two parties, resulting in what could be a truly realigning election and the dawn of a new progressive era? So far there has been little evidence of this, and indications have largely pointed to a very close general election.

But in the last week, there are signs that Obama's slowly emerging "victory" over Senator Clinton is beginning to alter that dynamic. Winners often get a bounce from their victory. It can be a few points or much more. And given that Senator Clinton is still in the race, it would be surprising for the Obama bounce to be more than a few points. But looking at the Post poll, the new LA Times poll, Rasmussen and Gallup, there is evidence that Obama is in the early stages of a bounce. He now leads Senator Clinton in all these polls by a larger margin than he has at any time in the campaign, consistently in double digits now (destroying her argument to be a stronger general election candidate). But he also is now starting to show three, six and in the Post poll, seven point advantages over Senator McCain.

While the Post makes the case that at this point McCain is outperforming the GOP and is showing remarkable early strength, I think that interpretation, while partially true, does not really capture what is happening in the race (particularly on the day GOPer Bob Barr entered the race, again showing how hard it is going to be for McCain to take full control over his party). Given the nature of the Democratic race, we really have no idea what a true McCain-Obama match up looks like. Senator Obama has yet to go through his ascension to be the Democratic chief, and all the public benefit that accrues from winning. This week, we are starting to see the public in the early stages of seeing Obama now as the Democratic nominee, and his numbers are rising across the board. But has he has not yet really won yet. I don't think at this stage he has risen as far has he will once Senator Clinton drops out of the race. He is in a sort of "mid-bounce." Which given that Senator Obama is now up mid- single digits now without having fully won, and given that the structural gap between the two parties is between 10-15 points, means he is likely to keep climbing over the next few weeks.

So, to me, this new Post poll should not be a comfort to the GOP, but yet another reminder of the catastrophic legacy of the age of Bush, and another early sign of what may be an historic realigning election to come in 2008 (the Mississippi House Special Election will be another sign).

For more on the dawn of a new political era, be sure to read our recent magazine article, The 50-Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era.

Richardson to endorse Obama

The Washington Post has reported that Bill Richardson will endorse Senator Obama.

As I wrote a week ago, this long lull 'til Pennsylvania is a very dangerous time for Senator Clinton. It is giving people time to look deeper at the campaign, and what they are seeing is that Senator Obama is winning, and given the delegate math will be very hard to beat. Expect more calls for Senator Clinton to end her candidacy in the coming weeks. Adam Nagourney reviewed this emerging dynamic in the NYTimes yesterday.

The Richardson endorsement will no doubt help Senator Obama address one of the most important weaknesses of the campaign, his standing with the Hispanic community. For more on the importance of Hispanics and the Southwest, see this new article in the American Prospect by Tom Schaller, our recent essay, The 50 Year Strategy, or our new analysis of how Hispanics have voted so far in 2008.

It will be interesting to see how Obama's speech on race earlier this week played into Richardson's decision to endorse.

Update: TPM reports that Senator Clinton ended February in debt. In debt.

Has anyone else noticed that Senator Clinton sort of disapeared this week? That the only stories she got into were process ones about FL and MI, passports and attacks?

Update 2: A new essay in the Politico strongly makes the case that Obama has already won the nomination. Without a primary for the next 4 plus weeks and the Wright controversy behind us for now, the press will need something to focus on. It appears as if for the next week or so the focus will be on whether Barack Obama has already won the nomination, challenging the Clinton campaign to come up with a better rationale for why they are continuing the race. The pressure on her to end her campaign and endorse Obama is going to mount in the next few weeks ushering in a very new dynamic in the campaign.

Obama now leads in the daily tracks

Just a few days ago Senator Clinton was leading by 4 and 6 points in the two major daily Presidential tracking polls. Now Gallup has Senator Obama up 5 (49-44) and Rasmussen has him up 2 (46-44). Obama has clearly now recovered from his tough week last week and seems to regaining some degree of national momentum. In both polls the movement is two way - he is trending up and she down. It is astonishing how this race continues to change, evolve, mature.

See this post for more on my thoughts about this next phase of the Democratic campaign for President.

Tue Update: Rasmussen now has it 48% Obama 41% Clinton, Gallup 48%-45%.  If Obama breaks 50% later this week with the small momentum he will get from his Mississippi win tonight, he will be able to say to all the undecided superdelegates that he is over 50 percent in the national polls, has won more votes, states and delegates, has raised much more money and has a far superior national organization.  And that given the math the only way she can win is by destroying him and his campaign, something nobody wants. 

So while the campaign moves on to the next round of states, you could see a scenerio developing in this 6 week window before Pennsylvania where elite Democratic opinion decides that he is definitively ahead, that it is dangerous for the party to prolong the fight and pressure mounts on Senator Clinton to fold.  For her campaign Obama's rebound in the national polls is a dangerous development, and one she is going to have address quickly or risk having this race slip from her grasp before we get to the Keystone State.

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