We're just three days away from Super Tuesday. So I wanted to run down the latest polls out this weekend.
On the Republican side the picture is coming pretty quickly into focus: John McCain looks poised to crush Mitt Romney on Tuesday. If you look at the results of the Gallup daily tracking poll
, virtually all of Giuliani's support nationally has gone to McCain, pushing him up into the mid-forties. Put that apparent break-out together with the fact that the Republican side is dominated by winner-take-all primaries, and it seems more than likely McCain will take Tuesday in a blow out. Probably enough to effectively end the Republican race. (For more, here's our look at the state by state breakdown
as of yesterday.)
The Democratic side is far less clear, both because of the proportional delegate allotment and because of the volatility of the polls. The big story over the last ten days has been Barack Obama steady gains against Hillary Clinton nationwide. On January 20th, Obama was 20 points behind Clinton. On Feb. 1st, he was 3 points behind, both according to the Gallup daily tracking poll. But then today, in the same poll, Hillary popped back to a 7 point margin.
Any political or public opinion professional will tell you that it's very difficult to draw very much from a single day of a tracking poll. And weekend night's are notoriously unpredictable for getting good samples. But the only other publicly released tracking poll now being conducted, by Rasmussen, also showed a similar, albeit milder, Hillary blip in today's results
-- Clinton 45%, Obama 37%, that's her up two points from the day before. The fact that this was the first night of polling after the Democratic debate provides some possible explanation for the change.
Obviously this is not quite a national primary on Tuesday, about half the country will be voting. But national polls mix in populations that are being actively contested with phone-banking and tv ad runs and those that aren't. And the state by state polls aren't coming in great enough numbers to give us a clear read of the trends, especially anything that might have happened in the last couple days. Tomorrow's tracking poll results and especially those released Monday will give us a better sense of whether today's numbers were just noise or the beginning of a new direction in the race.
Having gone over these numbers with Election Central's Eric Kleefeld, it seems clear that both Clinton and Obama will rack up a respectable number of state victories. But with the proportional allotment of delegates and the close margins, it doesn't seem like either is likely to come away with substantially more delegates than the other.
Assuming the final delegate numbers aren't too far apart (and by that i mean, say, closer than a 60%-40% split) a lot of the press coming out of Super Tuesday could be about who 'won' California, even though like the other states, it's proportional rather than winner take all.
What my gut tells me is that this all comes down to whether that blip in Hillary's margin from today turns out to be the first sign of something real. He's been moving so quickly in so many different states and nationwide that if his momentum continued through Tuesday I think he'd be set for a very good night. But perhaps that debate solidified Hillary's position and stopped him cold. I'll be very interested to see tomorrow's numbers.
To see our analysis of the outlook in each of the Super Tuesday states as of Jan. 31st, click here
. For all the polls released yesterday and today, click here