The Issues Explained: Why Obama is surging past Clinton for nomination

By Nicholas Ballasy

While the Republican nomination for president is for all practical purposes decided, the Democrats are still squaring off for the nod. With 967 pledged delegates under his belt, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is well on his way to getting the 1,191 delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination for president. The Democratic race is still too close to call.

Voters are demonstrating some interesting trends in the polls. Although Sen. Hillary Clinton, who currently has 1,031 pledged delegates, performed well on “Super Tuesday,” she has since lost steam because of Sen. Barack Obama’s 11-state winning streak. This has been attributed to Democratic voters’ calls for a “fresh” candidate who has no ties to past presidential politics. Many voters have indicated their desire to move away from the domination of members of the Bush and Clinton families in presidential politics.

Obama’s surge to 1,184 pledged delegates has largely been attributed to the fact that he was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq when he was a state senator and when he was running for U.S. Senate. Clinton, on the other hand, voted to give President Bush the authorization to use military force to disarm Iraq.

“There is an overall sense of anti-incumbency among democratic primary voters,” said Michael Brogan, political forecaster, academic budget officer and adjunct instructor of political science. “This helps explain why these voters have turned away from Senator Clinton’s message of ‘experience’ and gravitated toward Sen. Obama’s message of ‘change.’”

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen both Sens. Clinton, D-N.Y., and Obama, D-Ill., move away from only taking jabs at each other to explaining why they are the best candidate to take on McCain in the general election. Statistically, Obama has the advantage over Clinton. A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times survey released Wednesday shows that in a general-election match-up among registered voters, McCain is two points ahead of Obama, within the margin of error; he beats Clinton by six points. Obama would benefit from McCain’s links to George W. Bush, whose approval rating is below 30 percent. This link is mostly over McCain’s support for the war in Iraq; he has said the U.S. could be there for another 100 years.

“The political winds are against Republicans this November,” Brogan said. “What we know from the primaries so far is that such factors as increased levels of turnout, the poor performance of the economy, low presidential approval ratings, Iraq, as well as the push for change among the electorate do not favor Republicans.”

Obama has come across as a candidate wholly focused on the future and breaking away from the past, which has put him at an advantage when matched up against McCain. However, Clinton, who reminds voters of the 1990s and her husband’s presidency, does not do as well with voters. Voters may be forgetting that President Clinton turned President Bush Sr.’s deficit into a surplus, added millions of new jobs, moved more people out of poverty than ever before, kept the real estate market strong, prevented a recession and maintained America’s image abroad.

Regardless of President Clinton’s successes and Hillary’s experience as first lady, polls have shown that Obama fares better than Clinton among independents and has the ability to win Southern states in the general election that other Democratic candidates have struggled with in the past. If John Kerry had won Ohio in the last presidential election, he would have won the White House. It is likely that Obama can win all of the states Kerry won, plus Ohio and possibly Florida, as well as other swing states that went for Bush Jr. in 2004. With that in mind, coupled with his increasing amount of Democratic primary support, especially among young voters, I predict Obama will be the nominee who takes on McCain in the November general election.

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