The Clinton campaign has been making a case that she has done better than Obama in primaries and head-to-head vs. McCain polls in “swing states.” It’s a credible argument, as far as it goes, although “swing states” can be a pretty fluid designation. I was wondering if it might be worthwhile to take a look at a more permanent designation — the ten largest electoral vote states — to see which Dem does better vs. McCain, using the most recent Rasmussen Polls (conveniently-presented at Pollster.com). I won’t compare primary results here, since some are not so recent.
First, there is a three-way tie between GA, NJ and NC for 9th rank in e.v.’s, so we’ll look at recent poll averages among LV’s in “the big 11”, in order (electoral votes in parens):
CA (55) Clinton 54, McCain 35; Obama 52, McCain 38
TX (34) C 43, M 49; O 43, M 48
NY (31) C 60, M 31; O 52, M 35
FL (27) C 47, M 41; O 40, M 50
IL (21) No recent Rasmussen data, but Obama has an 18 point advantage over HRC in SurveyUSA’s Feb. poll.
PA (21) C 47, M 42; O 43, M 44
OH (20) C 50, M 43; O 44, M 45
MI (17) C 44, M 44; O 44, M 45
GA (15) C 37, M 48; O 39, M 53
NJ (15) C 42, M 45; O 45, M 46
NC (15) C 40, M 43; O 45, M 48
Clinton does better than Obama against McCain in 7 of the 11 states with the most electoral votes. Obama does better than Clinton against McCain in 3 of the top e.v. states, with no difference in the margin in one state (NC). McCain leads both Dems in 4 states, and beats Obama in 4 more, but loses to Clinton in those 4. The consolation for both Dems, and Obama in particular, is that the margins are often very small/within m.o.e. Both Dems, especially Clinton, have a big edge in the top five e.v. states. Obama does run strong in the mid-ranking and below e.v. states, and in a close election, even the smallest e.v. state could make the difference. Nonetheless, our candidate has to be competitive in the top 10 to win. There is every reason to expect that McCain’s leads will evaporate under the glare of the spotlight when the race narrows to the two nominees, given the stark weakness of his Iraq and economic policies.
It seems fair to infer, based solely on this limited and highly qualified poll data, that Clinton would be the stronger candidate v. McCain in the top e.v. ‘mega-states’, were the general election held today. I suspect that poll averaging would reveal something similar. However this does not take into account, like Clinton’s ‘electability’ argument, that voters may turn on her in decisive numbers if Obama is denied the nomination after complying with all of the rules fair and square and winning a majority of both the popular vote and the non-supers. Still, I can’t yet blame her for hanging in there and pumping up her creds, assuming she will campaign actively for Obama after the delegates vote and he clinches the nomination. There is also a counter-intuitive argument that her refusal to quit before the convention is actually a good thing for Obama in November because his chances of winning over her supporters are better if it’s clear that she had — and took — every opportunity.