Fluctuation between Clinton, Obama

Published 11:55 pm Sunday, March 23, 2008

By By Tray Smith
Barrack Obama's presidential campaign began suffering in the aftermath of the March 4 presidential primaries, when Hillary Clinton won three out of four contests in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont and lived to fight another day with momentum on her side. Obama's anguish has since continued through the controversy surrounding his spiritual guide, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And Obama's misery may end April 22, or shortly thereafter, when Clinton is poised for a major win in the Pennsylvania primary that could be large enough to doom Obama's credibility, and thus his candidacy.
Also possible is that Obama will be able to utilize the huge lead in delegates he amassed in February to stave off any further comeback from Clinton, and secure his party's nomination at the Democratic Convention in August. That scenario is not as likely as it once was, however, and Obama is no longer the front runner in the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate.
Already, Hillary Clinton has narrowed Obama's lead in the May 6 North Carolina primary, where the Illinois senator once led by as many as 14 points. According to RealClearPolitics.com (RCP), which maintains an average of all the various polls conducted nationally and in different states, Obama now leads Clinton there by an average of only five points. In Pennsylvania, the RCP average has Clinton ahead by 16 percentage points, potentially adding another swing state that Democrats need to win in November into Clinton's column.
There is also the yet-to-be-resolved issue of Florida and Michigan, both states whose primaries Clinton won but whose delegates are barred from voting at the convention due to Democratic National Committee rules. Although the Clinton campaign got bad news this week when officials in both states failed to agree on re-vote plans, it is very unlikely that neither state's delegates will be seated. The campaigns now must come to an agreement on how to resolve the situation, and it is only fair that any such agreement favor Clinton, who won the primaries in both states.
Should Obama persevere despite these obstacles, it will be a result of the delegate lead he has already accumulated, not a resurgence in his momentum. That will leave the Republicans capable of exploiting his newfound weaknesses in this fall's general election, much as some elements of the Republican political machine did with John Kerry's war record in 2004.
After spending months hoping the divisive and polarizing Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, some Republicans now believe Obama may be more vulnerable in the general election. For the first time, Clinton is performing better against likely GOP nominee Sen. John McCain in the RCP average than Obama is, with McCain leading both of them by an average of at least one point. Recent polls with McCain in the lead offer much hope for the Arizona senator, who has trailed or tied with each of his possible Democratic rivals since emerging as his party's likely nominee in February.
Even more encouraging for McCain are state by state polls that suggest him well poised to be successful with the electoral college. According the RCP average of polls in Florida and Pennsylvania, he would beat either of the Democratic candidates in two of the three most critical swing states. In Ohio, the third, he would beat Obama and be competitive with Clinton, who he currently trails. He would also be competitive with Obama in New Jersey and beat Clinton in Iowa. Recent polls indicate he would trounce both candidates in Missouri while competing closely in upper Midwest states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin. But despite McCain's growing advantage in these crucial states, Clinton is very competitive with him in most of them. Indeed, it is she who comes closest to McCain in nearly all of the swing states he is currently leading, and if the election were held today, she would beat him in more states than Obama would.
The polls have fluctuated greatly throughout the primary season. We are starting to get an idea of what the general election will look like, but the Democratic nominee is still unknown. One thing is clear: a lot changed between February and March, much more will change between March and November.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@ hotmail.com.

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