As contests unfold in small and medium-sized states during the next month, there do not seem to be many opportunities for Hillary Clinton to halt the momentum enjoyed by Barack Obama in recent weeks. Of course, polls are not infallible, as we learn each election season, but both polls and demographics indicate that Obama is on track to put some distance between himself and Clinton as primary and especially caucus states fall into his column throughout the next few weeks.
For example, a new SurveyUSA poll has Obama up by 19 points (52 to 33 percent) among likely voters in Maryland (primary date = February 12th).
New polls by SurveyUSA and InsiderAdvantage in Virginia (primary date = February 12th) measure Obama's lead by 20 (59 to 39 percent) and 15 (52 to 37 percent) points respectively.
In Wisconsin, however, a new survey of likely voters by American Research Group (ARG) conducted February 6-7 gives Clinton a 50 to 41 percent lead over the Illinois Senator. Wisconsin holds its primary on February 19th, and, along with the Hawaii caucuses on that day, is the last contest for the Democrats before several hundred delegates are awarded on March 4th (with primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont).
Is Wisconsin Clinton's new firewall? Well, perhaps that is exaggerating its importance a bit much, but if Obama does as well as expected this month in Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Louisiana, and in the caucuses in Kansas, Hawaii, and Washington, a loss in Wisconsin by Clinton would mean the New York Senator would have to endure more than 3 weeks of negative media coverage leading up to the mini-Super Tuesday of March 4th. Clinton needs to be able to hang her hat on some key state—and Wisconsin has been one of the classic battleground states during the past 20 years. Her campaign will be targeting it to be sure.
But should we ultimately expect Clinton to carry Wisconsin? Clinton suffers among independents in the Badger state, and does not perform as well as Obama in matchups against Republicans among voters overall. In a poll conducted by SurveyUSA two and a half weeks ago, Obama led Huckabee by 10 points while Clinton led him by just 4 points. McCain led both Democrats in close matchups, beating Obama by 2 points and Clinton by 4 points.