California Tightening, Routs Everywhere Else

The polls show John McCain and Hillary Clinton running through tomorrow’s Super Tuesday primaries and consolidating their frontrunner status. The notable exception is California, where both are seeing longstanding leads slip away.

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser notes, though, that the national polls give Clinton much more cause for concern.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton is losing ground to Sen. Barack Obama in a national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released on the eve of critical Super Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses. The two are virtually tied in Monday’s survey, which shows the New York senator has lost a comfortable national lead she’s held for months over Obama and other rivals.

The survey also shows Arizona Sen. John McCain as the clear Republican front-runner.

Obama, who trounced Clinton in January’s South Carolina primary, garnered 49 percent of registered Democrats in Monday’s poll, while Clinton trailed by just three points, a gap well within the survey’s 4.5 percentage point margin of error.


In the battle for the GOP nomination, McCain has the backing of 44 percent of registered Republicans, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 29 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got 18 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas won 6 percent.

Pollster John Zogby:

The Mac Attack appears ready to launch on Super Tuesday. McCain’s leads are commanding, except for in California where Romney leads in Southern California and among women, investors, and voters over 50. Romney holds a double digit lead there among conservatives and leads 56%-18% among very conservative voters. Romney also leads among white voters and among those who say that the war on terror and immigration are top issues.

McCain will do well because of his big leads in the other states and because of winner-take-all states. But Romney may at least have a strong showing in California. In Missouri, Huckabee is in second place by virtue of strong support with conservative and (especially) very conservative voters.

On the Democratic side, California, Missouri and New Jersey are so close. Obama’s lead in California is by virtue of solid support in the Bay Area and among Independents (by 20 points), men (20 points), 18-29 year olds (31 points), very liberal voters (22 points), and African Americans (75%-14%). Clinton does well among women (11 points) and among Hispanics (64%-29%).

National polls are instructive for trend analysis and are a good snapshot when looking at Super Tuesday, which will have two dozen contests spread across the country. Still, it’s a state-by-state process. According to RealClearPolitics, here are some averages of recent polls in key states:


Super Tuesday Polls - Democrats


Super Tuesday Polls - Republicans

Moreover, most of the Republican primaries tomorrow are winner-take-all, which benefits McCain. The key one that isn’t, California, also benefits McCain, since he’ll get a substantial number of delegates even if he loses.

On the Democratic side, while Clinton will win the vast majority of states, her close margin will mean that the fight for delegates continues long past tomorrow. And, if Obama wins California (which I think he’s apt to do, given that the trend is going his way and he’s got more enthusiasm on his side) he’ll get enough buzz to blunt much of Clinton’s momentum.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. duckspeaker says:

    Interestingly enough, putting the above Dem RCP numbers into Excel and taking a simple weighted sum, I get 687 delegates for HRC and 667 for Obama. However, if instead of using the RCP average figures, I substitute the most recent polls in each state, the figures shift from a 20 delegate Obama deficit to a 15 delegate Obama lead.

    Either way, the potential Tuesday results do not definitively decide the race, but it’s worthwhile echoing that the recent trend favors Obama.

  2. Triumph says:

    It seems pretty clear that Ron Paul is on the upswing, as well.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    It seems pretty clear that Ron Paul is on the upswing, as well.

    Oh, well played sir.

  4. Rich says:

    There are also a fair amount of outliers in some of these states’ polls. Zogby alone have Romney up 8 in CA while Rasmussun, who had Romney up 5 in FL has CA as tied. These account for the closeness. Who is right? I don’t know but this will be a interesting test for the pollers as well. McCain also benefits from some Zogby outliers but not to the same degree. I think we may be seeing some unique California polling issues here. Should be interesting. Somehow I’m sure Romney and his shrills will turn tomorrow into some Orwellian victory. War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom, Losing is Winning. What a vile fraud.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:

    Unless Hillary or Obama can break away from each other, they are likely to go down to the wire with the super delegates being the deciding factor. My understanding of the rules is that even a super delegate who has publicly pledged to one candidate, when it comes time to vote, they can change their mind.

    Absent the “Live boy or dead girl” scenario, I am thinking the brokered convention (at least to the extent the super delegates cast the deciding vote) is the odds on favorite to occur.

  6. legion says:

    Absent the “Live boy or dead girl” scenario,

    Insert obligatory Hillary joke here.

    You’re welcome.

  7. Trevor says:

    I’m a bit confused, why does the date say 02/05? It clearly can’t mean the date the poll was taken cause thats tomorrow.

  8. James Joyner says:

    I’m a bit confused, why does the date say 02/05? It clearly can’t mean the date the poll was taken cause thats tomorrow.

    I presume it’s the date the primary will be held.

  9. John says:

    I actually see Mitt Romney either winning or coming in a very close second on Super Tuesday. He is a fighter and as Republicans see and hear more of John McCain they are reminded that he is really not a conservative person.