Indiana and North Carolina Primary Predictions (Updated)

Voters in Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls today having far more impact on the race than anyone would have thought possible four months ago. If Barack Obama wins both states, even narrowly, it will be difficult for Hillary Clinton to justify staying in the race. If Clinton wins both, it will be evident that recent events have seriously hurt Obama’s candidacy and could signal to the superdelegates that they should seriously consider handing the nomination to Clinton.

The most likely result, though, is that Clinton wins Indiana and Obama wins North Carolina, maintaining the status quo.

InsiderAdvantage has “Obama Inching Closer in Indiana,” trailing Clinton 44-48. But all the polls, save Zogby, has her in the lead:

Indiana Democratic Primary Polls

An Obama upset isn’t out of the realm of possibility but it appears quite unlikely.

The lastest AP/Ipsos poll shows Clinton taking a 47-40 lead over Obama nationally among Democrats. While interesting, it’s also largely meaningless: It’s the state-by-state results that matter.

In North Carolina, “SurveyUSA’s 8th and final tracking poll, conducted exclusively for ABC11,” has Obama leading 50-45. He’s led in all of the post-Super Tuesday polls by similar margins. This caveat is worth noting, too:

There is no foreseeable outcome in North Carolina, regardless of which candidate wins the popular vote, where one candidate collects significantly more convention delegates than the other. Therefore, the exact final vote totals have much more symbolic importance than real importance.

Symbolism matters, though, in a race this tight. A Clinton win, especially, would be huge, given that Obama has simply been expected to win on the strength of a large black turnout. And all the polls show that as the likely outcome:

North Carolina Democratic Primary Polls

Both sets of RealClearPolitics averages are somewhat skewed by the inclusion of the Zogby poll, which are ridiculous outliers that are either oversampling Obama supporters or including a likely voter screen that’s more accurate than its competitors. A few years ago, I’d have guessed the latter. Given their recent performance, though, I’m guessing it’s the former.

My predictions: Clinton by 7 (53-46) in Indiana and Obama by 5 (51-46) in North Carolina.

Update (Dave Schuler)

I concur with James’s prediction: Clinton by 7, Obama by 5. If I’m wrong, I think it will be in the direction of Obama’s winning North Carolina by a larger margin and Clinton’s winning Indiana by a larger margin.

Update (Alex Knapp): Slight disagreement with my colleagues here. I agree with the Clinton victory in Indiana and the Obama victory in North Carolina. However, I think the Indiana margin will be smaller (5 points), and the North Carolina will be larger (8-10 points). The North Carolina polls showing a tighter margin have only been for registered Democrats, not likely voters, and they have also undercounted African Americans in terms of population percentage. Addtionally, the early voting in North Carolina has shown disproportinately high numbers of both African American and voters aged 18-29. I think that’s a dynamic that spells a bigger victory for Obama. As for Indiana, the dominant news story in the past couple of days hasn’t been Wright, but rather Clinton’s pandering on the gas tax holiday (which a majority of Democrats oppose, according to recent polling). I think that’s going to come off as pandering to some voters on the margin who are on the fence and lead to a smaller gap of victory for Clinton.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. SoloD says:

    Continuing my streak of getting predictions horribly wrong:

    NC – Obama by 10%
    IN – Clinton by 4%

  2. Michael says:

    Hillary’s economic planners, incidentally, say she will win by 110% and anyone who says that’s not actually possible is an elitist.

  3. physics geek says:

    Hillary wins IN by 10
    Obama wins NC by 2 or 3; he typically underperforms his polling

    Double your money back if I’m wrong.