A Few Months Is an Eternity in Politics, Vol. 673

Remember when the media was obsessing over the on-again-off-again Democratic primary revotes in Michigan and Florida? How could the state parties in those two states ...
by | July 15, 2008

Remember when the media was obsessing over the on-again-off-again Democratic primary revotes in Michigan and Florida? How could the state parties in those two states have been so arrogant as to hold unsanctioned primaries? And how could the national party have been so shortsighted as to alienate the voters of two key swing states for the sake of an esoteric debate over process?

Well, today Barack Obama has a 9.5% lead over John McCain in Michigan in the pollster.com average for the state. Nationally, Obama's lead is 5.2% if you include Ralph Nader and Bob Barr and 3.8% if you exclude them, which many polls do.

In other words, Obama is doing 4-6 percentage points better in Michigan than he is nationally. In 2004, John Kerry beat his national showing by 5.9 percentage points in Michigan. If there's any residual ill will from the primary debacle, the polls aren't showing it.

In Florida, Obama is still underperforming. McCain leads in the pollster.com average by 3.7%, meaning that Obama is 7-9 percentage points weaker in Florida than he is nationally. For Kerry, the number was about 2.5.

Still, there are plenty of other more plausible explanations for that result than voter anger over the primary. Most notably, an age gap has emerged this year. Democrats typically hold there own among seniors, but McCain has a significant advantage with the group nationally.

For that reason alone, you'd expect Obama to be underperforming in Florida. Another thing to remember: The Democratic National Committee ultimately decided to award delegates based on the Florida primary, but not based on the Michigan primary, so, if the situation had a lasting impact anywhere, you'd expect it to be Michigan.

In retrospect, it was silly to expect voters to stay focused on a long-completed primary process all the way until November. It was also a tad condescending to expect voters to make their decisions not based on Iraq, the economy or health care, but based on some trivial slight their state might have suffered.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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