Monday, February 4, 2008

Obama Inches Ahead in Massachusetts Thanks To Ted Kennedy

Momentum really seems to be swinging Barack Obama's way at the moment, with a new poll out this afternoon giving Obama the lead in Massachusetts, once considered safely in the Clintons (I'm using the plural for a reason) column. The Real Clear Politics average lead for Clinton in the state, averaging the most recent polling data, is 17.5 points, but the Boston Globe is reporting this afternoon that Obama now has a statistically insignificant 2 point advantage, but a lead is a lead, especially in a race which was a 20-point gap 10 days ago. And the reason? Ted Kennedy's endorsement.

Obama has 46 percent to Clinton's 44 percent, while 7 percent of Democratic and independent voters likely to vote in the Democratic primary were undecided.

The endorsement last week by Senator Edward M. Kennedy for Obama is a key factor. Asked to size up the impact of three endorsements for Obama and Clinton, 43 percent of Democratic respondents cited Kennedy's endorsement as the most influential, followed by Bill Clinton's of his wife (23 percent) and Oprah Winfrey's of Obama (9 percent).

"The Bay State's senior senator Ted Kennedy clearly has more clout in Massachusetts than the popular former president, Bill Clinton," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University. "Add to that the backing of Senator Kerry and Governor Patrick, with the resonant message of change as well as the Kennedy call for 'a new generation of leadership' and you have the reason why what was once Clinton country has become an Obama opportunity – and a political choice between the nostalgic and the new."

Obama has the support of all the major Democratic leaders in Massachusetts (Edwards, Senator John Kerry, and Governor Deval Patrick) but the state has long been considered safe for the Clinton campaign. Not anyomore. Like New Jersey, which pollster John Zogby has a 43-43 dead heat, Clinton may not have the firewall on the East Coast like she may have assumed. And given softening poll numbers in California and Missouri, it is a tight race. Although, this does get back to the expectations problem for Obama, where before, coming close in California would have been a victory. MSNBC's First Read points out though, now, the pressure may be on Obama to win California which is going to be tough despite his newfound support, thanks in large part to early voting which took place while Clinton had her 20-point advantage. Still, while NBC's Political Director Chuck Todd explains in his appearance on the Today show below, previewing Super Tuesday, that the Obama campaign may want a few more days to gather momentum, I almost wish the election were already here, because there may never be a time Obama is higher than right now.

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