Wow. What a beat down. And despite correctly projecting victory for Barack Obama, the polls still managed to get it wrong. The most favorable Obama polls, Reuters C-Span/Zogby, predicted Obama beating Clinton by a 15 point margin (41 [Obama]-26 [Clinton]-19 [Edwards]). In reality, however, Obama blew both opponents out of the water, gaining more vote support than the two candidates combined. Obama scored a stunning 55% of the South Carolina electorate, to Clinton's 27% and Edward's 18%. So, what went wrong with the polling?
In reality, the polls got it right. Averaging 5 major South Carolina polls suggested Clinton would win 26.8% (compared to an actual number of 26%), Edwards 19.2% (compared to an actual number of 19%), and Obama 38.4% (compared to an actual number of 55%). This left 15.6% of the electorate undecided. This is what the polls could not predict - the undecided vote. If you add 15.6% and 38.4%, you get 54%, which is mighty close to Obama's actual vote of 55%. (Of course there's the margin of error to contend with, but that seems less of an issue).
I think that is a tremendous victory for Obama, to convert ALL of the undecided voters will be very beneficial for Obama. While I haven't looked at all of the polling for the Super Tuesday states, California has an estimated 20% of voters undecided, while Hillary maintains a 12 point lead (Field Poll). This could be huge for Obama.
Going back to the South Carolina poll, Obama beat Hillary in every single category. One thing that stands out is that Obama certainly turned out the African American vote. Similar to the female support of Hillary in New Hampshire, the African American vote turned out to support of the first legitimate African American candidates in order to allow America to get a better look as well. Could South Carolina be Obama's New Hampshire?
The big question is what does this all mean for Super Tuesday? And the answer is: "a lot" or "nothing." For the most part, South Carolina looks nothing like the rest of the Super Tuesday bunch, save possibly Georgia, Alabama, and possibly Tennessee. The rest of the states, from California to Connecticut, are completely different. In addition, whereas voters were able to get a really solid look at candidates because candidates could focus in on a particular state, Super Tuesday will be much different. With so many states in contention, candidates will have to spread themselves thinly, meaning voters will not get as unique a perspective as in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
One other thing to note, is the Super Tuesday features 5 states that are considered, "battleground" states: Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Tennessee, and Minnesota. A battleground state is a state that has not had a consistent historical trend of voting one way or the other, or current trends show that the state could swing the other way. Watching these 5 states will be important simply as a foreshadow of the 2008 election.
Before I sign off, though, I would like to note that Citizen Kendrick will be having a more in depth look at the Super Tuesday primary. So check back with us, and we'll be sure to keep you informed.