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Super Tuesday Preview: The Democrats

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The Democratic showdown in more than 20 states on Super Tuesday could be one for the ages. A national shift to Barack Obama has definitely taken place during the past week. Obama is in the lead or tied with Hillary Clinton in 3 of the 7 national polls taken during the past few days. Previously, Obama had tied or led in just 4 of the past 201 polls dating back to late 2006, with Clinton boasting double digit leads in the majority of them.

Due to the proportional system in which state democratic parties award delegates, it is extremely unlikely that a winner on the Democratic side will emerge on February 5th. The headline, however, will not simply be that Obama 'remained competitive' to stay in the race, but that the Illinois junior Senator won several key states in which Clinton had previously held the momentum. That outcome - even if the two candidates come out nearly equal in the delegate count - would be a severe blow to the Clinton campaign.

There are several states (at least 8) that are unlikely to be in play on Super Tuesday. Clinton is poised to do very well in her home states of Arkansas and New York in addition to Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Oklahoma is one of the few states in which the well-funded Obama campaign decided not to run any media spots. Obama, meanwhile, is running strong in Georgia, Illinois, and Utah.

Of the remaining 14 states, California is the big prize, and Smart Politics predicts Obama will win the most votes in the Golden State where Oprah Winfrey and the state's First Lady Maria Shriver campaigned on behalf of Obama this weekend.

Clinton once had the upper hand in Northeastern states like New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware, but recent polls in all those states show them to be up for grabs. Smart Politics predicts that although the races will be tight, Clinton will prevail in at least two of them.

Several states, especially in the West and Midwest, will be holding caucuses on Tuesday: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, and North Dakota. Polling is very scant in these states, with the only recent poll coming in Minnesota (released last week by Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute), which showed Clinton with a 7-point lead. Smart Politics predicts that Obama will prevail in a majority of these caucus states, including the Gopher State, where he has run a big ad campaign.

That leaves the Southern states of Alabama and Missouri and the Southwestern state of Arizona. Polls in all three states are very close and these are definite 'toss-up' states. Whoever wins them will not win a large majority of the delegates.

Missouri might be the bellwether state in determining who has the ultimate advantage as the campaigns move forward past Super Tuesday, as it is the neighboring state to both Clinton (Arkasnsas) and Obama (Illinois).

The final tally Smart Politics expects to see on the Super Tuesday Democratic scorecard: 12 states for Clinton, 10 states for Obama.

A Republican Super Tuesday Preview will be posted later today.

Previous post: California a Toss Up for the GOP
Next post: Super Tuesday Preview: The Republicans

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