’08 PA Presidential Race Is Clinton’s to Lose
Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling and Research, has a message for political junkies throughout Pennsylvania – Rejoice! Election year 2008 promises to be one of the most exciting electoral years in recent memory. So get out the popcorn and the peanuts and settle down for a long ride, first to the April 22 primary and then to the November election.
“Pennsylvania has been a hard-fought state in general elections now for a long time,” Lee said, “but this is the first year that we are also important in a primary for President at least on the Democratic side. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are going to spend heavily in this state and make more appearances than we’ve ever seen before,” Lee said.
Susquehanna’s survey in early March was the first to show Clinton’s lead here widening over Obama. The polls showed Clinton with a 14-point lead over the Illinois senator 45-31 percent with 19 percent of 500 Democrats surveyed undecided. Subsequent polls found the same pattern. The state primary, which will have national media attention and focus during April, is set for April 22. SPR’s recent poll conducted 4/6-4/10 is due out shortly.
Lee believes Clinton is the favorite to win, given her strong margins with Catholic voters, blue collar “Reagan Democrats”, senior citizens and middle income households. Plus, the poll showed Clinton beating Obama in virtually every region of the state but for Philadelphia, where the city’s black population is high, and South Central PA, where Democrats are more “Obama like-minded” because they tend to be more affluent, more liberal on social issues, and less like the Reagan Democrats you get in Western PA.
In the fall election, Lee does not rule out a possible John McCain victory in Pennsylvania. “He is still in the hunt,” Lee said, based on the results of his latest poll. It tested the strength of both Democrats against the Arizona senator and presumptive GOP nominee. He was within the margin of error in both cases – only a 3 to 4 percentage difference. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she would beat Sen. McCain by a narrow 47-44 margin in Pennsylvania among all voters. But Sen. McCain bested Sen. Obama in the same general election quiz by a 45-41 margin. This proves the state is again a battleground, especially when you consider the fact that despite the very favorable political climate for the Democrats, McCain is still running neck-and-neck with both Obama and Clinton in the general election match-ups.
For now, McCain seems to have safely positioned himself away from President George W. Bush who continues to score poorly among Pennsylvanians. The President’s disapproval rating was 64-29 percent. However, Lee believes McCain has a much better chance to win the state for the GOP if Obama is the nominee, which he is likely to be, since McCain wins support from the same type of voters that Obama appeals to – moderates and independents.
In some of our polling in legislative races this year, McCain’s margin over Obama is 20 points, compared to a dead heat against Clinton. Clearly, most GOP candidates should pray for an Obama ticket in November, Lee said.