Early Polling Shows Obama Gaining On Hillary

Keep in mind that polling this early in a presidential cycle has the same level of predictive value as Uncle Earl’s trick knee has in alerting you to bad weather. With that in mind, if not in knee, the front-page article at the Washington Post on their latest polling does show some developing storms for the presumed frontrunner in the Democratic Party nomination race:

The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Academy Award.
Clinton’s and Obama’s support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.
African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he began his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.

That contrasts with a poll taken by CNN, which shows black voters giving Obama a “cool reception” and favoring Hillary by 15-20 points. However, as poorly predictive as a February 2007 poll is to the 2008 primary races might be, it still has more credibility than a poll conducted in the first week of December. That’s when CNN took the poll that for some reason they released last night:

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted December 5-7, 2006, found that 65 percent of whites thought America was ready, compared with 54 percent of blacks. The poll’s margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.

I’d say it was plus-or-minus 12 weeks.
The Washington Post poll has more interesting data in its internals. Hillary has now dropped below 50% in favorability, with a thin +1 differential and only a 3-point undecided margin. Obama has a 53% approval rating and a +23 differential. It shows two candidates going in opposite directions, and with Obama scoring better among black voters, both trends will probably continue.
Over on the GOP side, Giuliani continues to outstrip the competition. He’s extended his lead over the #2 man, John McCain, from 7 points in January to 23 points now. Newt Gingrich scores a third-place position without having made any moves to join the race, garnering 15%. If he is removed from the equation, most of his support goes to Giuliani, a dynamic that seems very strange on policy, but very predictable based on leadership. Mitt Romney continues to trail in the polling, coming in a distant fourth at 4%.
These numbers will get plenty of discussion — and plenty of criticism — at CPAC, which starts tomorrow. I’ll be traveling after work tonight to DC to attend the conference and look forward to seeing all of the Republican candidates make their cases for nomination to the gathered conservatives. (Well, almost all.) Keep checking back during CPAC for interviews and assessments during the day.

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