February 29, 2008
Polls here, polls there

The Chron says Barack Obama is leading in Texas.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama appears to be consolidating a lead over Hillary Rodham Clinton among most constituent groups in Texas except Hispanics, according to a new tracking poll.

The survey found Obama leading 48.2 percent to 41.7 percent over Clinton statewide. The poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday for the Houston Chronicle, Reuters and C-SPAN by Zogby International, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.


The tracking poll, which will be conducted daily until next Tuesday's election, found Obama leading with both men and women. He and Clinton were essentially tied among Anglos, but he held 84.9 percent support among blacks and she had the support of 54.9 percent of the Hispanics surveyed.

That Hispanic backing helped give Clinton a lead in South Texas of 66.7 percent. She also led in West Texas, which would include heavily Hispanic El Paso.

Obama led in every other region and was supported by about 60 percent of those surveyed in Houston and Dallas -- which have more nominating delegates at stake than all of the region from San Antonio to Brownsville to El Paso.


Momentum is clearly on Obama's side, though. A Texas Democratic superdelegate -- state Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston -- Thursday switched her support from Clinton to Obama.

Pollster John Zogby said the statistics that really show the momentum for Obama is the timing of when people made up their mind on how to vote. He said Clinton leads "substantially" among those who made up their minds more than a month ago, but Obama leads almost "two-to-one" among those who made up their minds recently.

That last bit jibes with a People Calling People poll (PDF) that Perry highlights, which shows Sen. Clinton holding a small lead among those who have already voted. Really, the question any poll has to answer at this point is how they determined their sample. With so many new voters in this primary, you simply cannot rely on past voting history. It seems likely to me that any miscalculations here are going to undercount Obama's support, but that could be wrong as well. We just don't know. My gut says Obama's got a decent lead, but we won't know till Tuesday.

Well, assuming there isn't a lawsuit, anyway.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has raised the possibility of a challenge to Texas' primary and caucus rules just days before the contest, drawing a warning against legal action from the state's Democratic Party.

Top strategists for Democratic rival Barack Obama said today they supported the party's action, suggesting the Clinton campaign was trying to block the reporting of caucus results.

Aides to Clinton said earlier this week they were alarmed at the lack of clarity about many of the caucus rules and expressed their concerns on a conference call with Obama's staff and state party officials. Texas has a two-step voting process, with a primary and then caucuses shortly after the polls close.

Specifically, Clinton aides questioned a provision allowing caucus attendees to vote to move the location if they choose to do so, and whether people who had cast so-called "provisional ballots" in the primary would have their votes counted in the caucus.

They also expressed concern about the automated phone system precinct chairs would use to call in the results of each caucus, saying the party hadn't yet trained anyone to use the system properly.

Clinton political director Guy Cecil said he asked party officials to spell out the rules in memo form and to send them to both campaigns.

"We want to see the results in writing, and we reserve the right to challenge something if we don't believe it reflects something that was discussed on the call," he said, insisting that if there were clear problems with how the caucuses were being run, "you are allowed to say something about it."

Cecil today denied that the campaign planned to sue the party, which will manage roughly 8,700 caucuses Tuesday evening.

"There were no veiled threats of lawsuits of any kind," Cecil said of the conference call.

Glenn Smith suggests a reason for this:

They want to delay and disrupt the reporting of the delegate count. They hope that if they win the popular vote, they can avoid, at least for one news cycle, news reports that even if they do so they will very likely lose the delegate fight in Texas and fall further behind Obama in the national delegate contest.

This is not speculation. This has been the subject under discussion. While I have not been part of that discussion, plenty of sources last night and this morning confirmed this as the core of the dispute.

It is widely assumed that Obama's organizational advantage will achieve in the caucus portion of the Texas election just what it has achieved in earlier caucuses: a significant victory in delegates. There are 67 delegates at stake in those caucuses. The Clinton campaign would like to delay the reporting of the caucus results, and that is why they have continually "reserved the right to challenge" Texas law and Democratic party procedures.

Throw the Texas delegate results in dispute, and win or lose the popular vote, they will have advanced their case that the contest remains close and should go all the way to the convention if necessary.

Well, good luck with that. Both the Pollster average and the Belo tracking poll are also showing movement to Obama. I can understand this strategy if she wins the popular vote, but not if she loses it, as it'll sound a lot like sour grapes. But hey, you never know. Thanks to KT for the latter links.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 29, 2008 to The making of the President
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