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Obama’s Potomac sweep: When exit polls are rendered meaningless

By Griffin · February 13th, 2008 · No Comments


It has now been eight days and eight straight wins since Hillary Clinton last came within 15 points of Barack Obama in a primary or caucus.  Last night’s victories for Obama weren’t surprising, but the margins of victory were staggering: 23 points in Maryland, 29 points in Virginia, and 51 points in the District of Columbia.  Even what I thought were my outside-the-boundary predictions from yesterday of 20 to 25 point margins ended up falling short.  Once again, as we saw this past weekend in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state, and Maine, Obama seems to have crossed a threshold where he is consistently outperforming polls on the strength of a groundswell of new voters– Independents, young voters, and African-Americans– that even the most liberal pollsters fail to fully take into account.  But more importantly, while holding incredibly strong in those key demographics, Obama is beginning to gain a foothold in areas that up until Super Tuesday were Clinton territory.

A quick look at exit polls from Virginia bears this out.  While beating Clinton by 29 points in the overall vote, Obama won Independents by 39 points, voters under 45 years of age by 43 points, and African-American voters by 80 points.  In the past, Clinton has been able to withstand these types of disparities by holding her own among Latinos, older voters, and registered Democrats– often by enough of a margin to win, as in California.  But in Virginia, as we saw in other states over the past weekend, Obama managed to win Latinos by 8 points, voters 65 or older by 10 points, and registered Democrats by 24 points.  And this is just the exit polls from the state he won by 29 points.  No exit polls were released for D.C. by any major news organization, but imagine what they would look like.

Fortunately, we here at TrainWreck Politics conducted our own exit poll yesterday of voters in all three Potomac primary contests.  It’s a fairly complex analysis and may be difficult to follow for some readers, but bear with me.  I believe it gives as much information, if not more, than any exit poll conducted by the larger news organizations, and will give you a better idea of exactly what happened yesterday.

Obama won

As you can see, this chart illustrates exactly how voters lined up in each state and in each key demographic.  Not only that, but many demographics that the major organizations did not cover can be broken down and analyzed here.  How did Obama do among black voters in D.C. yesterday?  Obama won.  Which way did women voters in Maryland lean?  Obama won.  How did Clinton fare among older voters overall?  Obama won.  What was the preference of gay voters age 35-44 who work full-time but spend at least an hour a day shopping online at work?  Obama won.  Among Latino voters from Bethesda who believe the economy is on the wrong track, which genre of music did they say provides them the most comfort?  Obama won.  How did Clinton do among male voters age 55 or older who have been institutionalized in the past for believing that they were in fact the real Hillary Clinton?  Obama won.

What’s clear from yesterday’s results is that Barack Obama has built a historic coalition of new voters that is now being shored up by a Democratic base that once belonged to Hillary Clinton.  In a general election– as we have seen thus far in the primaries– this combination of old and new, past and future, that reaches deep into every imaginable demographic will be difficult if not impossible for even a moderate like John McCain to match.  And unless Clinton can find some way not just to stop, but also to dramatically reverse Obama’s momentum in the next three weeks, both parties may very soon have their nominee.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats · Hillary Clinton · Polls


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