Texas and Ohio Primary Predictions

There are primaries today in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Nobody outside of those states are paying attention to the last two. Hillary Clinton has staked the continuation of her campaign on doing well in Texas and Ohio and Barack Obama has obliged by saying she’s done if she doesn’t win both of them by a wide margin.

(The Republicans are having primaries too. John McCain will win them. Since everyone presumes he’s the nominee, though, all eyes are on the Democratic contests.)

As Alex noted yesterday, the polls aren’t a lot of help in predicting the outcomes. The conventional wisdom is that Obama is slightly ahead in Texas and Clinton ahead by a somewhat more comfortable margin in Ohio but one can find reputable polls with wide variations.

Ohio: The Buckeye State would seem the easiest of the two to call. Clinton has a 7 point lead in the RCP average, is ahead or tied in every single poll, and has maintained a lead from the beginning.

Texas and Ohio Primary Polls

The trend lines:

Texas and Ohio Primary Polls Trends

There’s no real reason to go against the tide here. Turnout is expected to be unusually high, which would seem to benefit Obama since the biggest gain will likely be in the under-30 cohort, but that shouldn’t be enough to overcome a 7 point deficit. Once upon a time, the fact that Zogby had the race a tie would have given me great pause but he hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire with accuracy lately.

So far as I know, Ohio’s voting rules are relatively normal and Clinton has been fighting especially hard here. She should win relatively comfortably, with a margin of 5 points or so.

Texas: In the Lone Star State, Clinton has moved back in front in the RealClearPolitics average, although by a tiny amount.

Texas and Ohio Primary Polls Predictions

The trends are definitely in her favor:

Texas and Ohio Primary Polls Trends

She’s ahead in most of the polls and she seems to be moving up while Obama’s going down. So, she should win, right? Maybe.

The problem, though, is the “Texas Two Step” that we’ve been hearing so much about. Even if Clinton wins the popular vote in the primary by a narrow margin, that only accounts for two-thirds of the votes. The rest are determined by having the most committed of the primary voters caucus later in the day. Obama has dominated caucus voting thus far.

Moreover, as much as twenty percent of the primary voters have already cast their ballot. That means they did so while Obama was still ahead. If intervening events or more reflection has changed their minds, it doesn’t matter.

Finally, Clinton could win the popular vote in the primaries and still come out behind Obama in the delegate count even for that stage because of the odd weighting system Texas uses which advantages precincts with heavy Democratic turnout in the last general election. That means voters in Obama-friendly places like Austin count more than those in Clinton-friendly Hispanic districts where George W. Bush did well in 2004.

There are too many variables here for me to even pretend to come up with a meaningful prediction on the final delegate count. But I think Obama wins narrowly.

Impact on the Race: Despite the conventional wisdom that Clinton needs to win both states to stay in the race, I don’t see it. From a personality standpoint, I think Matt Yglesias gets it right:

Now under the circumstances, I see no real way for Clinton to make up the lost delegate lead, but at this point it does seem to me that she and her campaign staff are probably egomaniacal enough that if they pull out a narrow “win” they’ll keep running anyway hoping for lightning to strike and seeing the damage it’ll do to the party as a feature, rather than a bug, since a crippled Obama who loses to John McCain could set them up for another run in 2012.

My colleague, Dave Schuler, has argued that this is Clinton’s last shot and that every advantage she had in 2008 is diminished by 2012. I agree completely. But that doesn’t mean Clinton does.

Moreover, given the proportional allocation of delegates the Democrats use, the race will likely remain a virtual tie regardless of tonight’s “winners” and “losers.” The press and Democratic Establishment may start to hammer Clinton to withdraw and anoint Obama as the prohibitive favorite. But so long as she’s got the resources and energy to run, I don’t see why she’d quit. She is, as she noted in her announcement, “In it to win it.” My guess is that will be true until the bitter end.

Other OTB Predictions and Analyses:

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Hillary All the Way!!!! says:

    We love you Hillary!!!!!!


  2. Jeremiah says:

    “Finally, Clinton could win the popular vote in the primaries and still come out behind Obama in the delegate count even for that stage because of the odd weighting system Texas uses which advantages precincts with heavy Democratic turnout in the last general election. That means voters in Obama-friendly places like Austin count more than those in Clinton-friendly Hispanic districts where George W. Bush did well in 2004.”

    FINALLY SOMEBODY GETS IT! I think you’re right, Obama wins the most Texas delegates. I’m not familiar enough with Ohio to form an opinion but the spreads for Clinton there seem to indicate this battle is going to last long after today.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think you are right. Hillary will win Ohio and the popular vote in Texas, but then lose to Obama in the delegate count in Texas. One liberal friend of mine explained the way the democratic delegate allocation worked that Austin gets more delegates than Houston. For those of you who are geography challenged, that means that the democrats count one Austinite vote as being about equal to 3 Houstonian votes.

    RI will likely go for Clinton and Vermont for Obama. So Obama will spin a victory in Vermont and walking away with more delegates despite losing the popular vote in Texas as a win and Hillary will spin popular vote wins in TX, OH and RI as a win.

    Bottom line is that neither will win enough delegates in the primary/caucus to win the nomination without super delegates. We will see if Dean can do a deal with them come June, but my suspicion is that we wait until August. Some reporter could probably win a Pulitzer for investigative reporting on the back room deals that will be cut to win super delegates.

  4. Bill says:

    How do we know that the Texas voters who have already cast their ballot did so while Obama was ahead? He wasn’t ahead for that long, was he?

  5. kevino says:

    The press are not going to pressure Senator Clinton to resign because they love the drama going all the way to the convention. And Senator Clinton isn’t going away even if she looses OH and TX – which she won’t. She is going to be the nominee even if she has to steal it.

  6. Greg says:

    I’m not sure you’re right about this. The polls have been way out in left field during this election cycle, and IIRC they usually underpoll Obama. I think this is due to the fact that Obama’s supporters are younger and more affluent, which means they are highly likely to be a cellphone user who has long ago dropped the landline. They are not able to be polled at all.

    Contrast that with Clinton’s main base – low income, undereducated aged women – a group not likely to be heavy cellphone users, and highly unlikely to have dumped the landline – and I think you have an opportunity for Obama to “once again” give Hillary an unexpectedly heavy thumping.

  7. yetanotherjohn says:


    If you look for the cross over point of the green and purple lines, then Clinton was ahead for about 2/3 of the early voting. If you look at the trend line, then Clinton was trending down during the early voting and started trending up about when it ended.

    See NH, CA for how Obama has been doing so much better than the polls show … not. But we will know soon.

  8. Kyle says:

    If Clinton wins the primary vote in TX combined with a win in OH then she can claim a mandate to keep campaigning. If she looses both the primary and the caucus in TX, then it will be a lot tougher for her. The wonderful thing about TX is that both can make a legitimate claim to have won it.

  9. Mike O says:

    You’re neglecting the ‘Rush’ factor in Texas. A bunch of us GOP types were planning to jump across, but had differing views of whether to take out Hillary, or give her a boost to let the pain linger. Rush coming out for the latter strategy (I had already decided the same), might be a tipping point. However, I suspect many of the crossovers can’t stomach caucusing with ‘the other side’, so I’ll likely be one of the few doing that (my father was a coroner for awhile; I can take it.)

  10. George B says:

    I’m a Republican in Texas who voted for Hillary during early voting. I also plan to vote for Hillary in the caucus this evening. Figure that Hillary would be easier to beat in November and less likely than Obama to get expensive programs passed. It appears that in Texas you can vote in the caucus and leave. Much lower level of effort than the Iowa caucus.

  11. My prediction is fairly similar, although I think Obama may eke out a win in Texas in the popular vote.

    I continue to be amazed at how few follow Intrade which is a very good indicator. They have Hillary way up in Ohio and Obama narrowly up in Texas right now (but of course it changes constantly).

    These results would also correlate with the latest Rasmussen poll.

  12. Neal J. King says:

    Most of the Democrats want the nomination to be finalized. But I wonder if it really hurts if the fight goes on?

    To state my preferences, first:
    a) In principle, I am OK with either Obama or Clinton; but
    b) I think Clinton will have a lot harder time getting actually elected. There are a lot of people who will get out to vote AGAINST Clinton, who would not get out to vote FOR McCain.

    So, it is my preference that the nominee be Obama.

    However, if the fight goes on, there’s more news, there’s more money spent in the campaign, there’s more excitement: Maybe that just continues to play to the advantage of the Democrats. Maybe it just keeps the focus on the struggle, which may be much more interesting than a settled story. Obama, in particular, does not seem to be anywhere near running out of money: It seems that the bulk of his financial support is from little people, who haven’t come near maxing-out their contribution limit.

    Although it must be tiring, maybe an ongoing struggle is the best thing that could happen to Obama.

  13. Zach Foreman says:

    I think Hillary’s best strategy is to try to win the popular vote and win in the swing states (like Ohio and Pennsylvania). That way she can market herself to the Superdelegates as 1) the best one to win over the Purple states, 2) The popular winner, if not the delegate winner (those undemocratic caucuses!), 3. the true winner if the Michigan and Florida delegates were seated, 4) the momentum candidate, since she won most of the primaries before the convention, Obamamania crested and then burnt-out.

    These arguments might win over enough superdelegates and convince the bigwigs to have Obama wait, since he’s pretty young and inexperienced.

  14. Chester White says:

    No one other than me apparently is remembering the hundreds of FBI files that Hillary copied way back in about 1993.

    Wanna bet that Democratic superdelegates make up a chunk of those names?