Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Massachusetts voters like their own.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama has put the Illinois senator in a position to win today’s Democratic primary, while former Gov. Mitt Romney holds a 13-point lead in the state, according to a Suffolk University poll by David Paleologos released yesterday.

Among likely voters in the Democratic primary, Mr. Obama led Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by 46 percent to 44 percent, a result that Mr. Paleologos attributed in large part to the support of Mr. Kennedy and other office-holding Massachusetts Democrats.

“The Bay State’s senior senator, Ted Kennedy, clearly has more clout in Massachusetts than the popular former president, Bill Clinton,” Mr. Paleologos said. “Add to that the backing of Senator John Kerry and Governor Deval Patrick, and you have the reason why what was once Clinton country has become an Obama opportunity — and a political choice between the nostalgic and the new.”

Democrats among the 400 respondents, interviewed from Friday to Sunday cited Mr. Kennedy’s backing (43 percent) as the most influential endorsement, followed by former President Bill Clinton’s support of his wife (23 percent) and TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey’s touting of Mr. Obama (9 percent).

Although the two-point margin is well within the poll’s 4.9 percentage-point error of margin, it’s a stunning turnaround. As late as mid-January, with former Sen. John Edwards and others still in the race, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Obama in a SurveyUSA poll by 56 percent to 23 percent in Massachusetts.

“If young voters, men and independents turn out for Obama, he will win,” Mr. Paleologos said. “If older voters and women dominate the Democratic primary as they did in neighboring New Hampshire, then it’s Clinton’s for the taking. But at this point every precinct counts, and there’s no room for a tactical mistake on Election Day.”

Only 7 percent of Democratic and independent voters were undecided. But 27 percent of Democratic voters and 24 percent of Republican voters say they may change their minds before they actually vote today.

On the Republican side, the Suffolk poll showed Mr. Romney comfortably leading Sen. John McCain but being helped by the presence of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul in the race.

Mr. Romney had the support of 50 percent of poll respondents, against 37 percent backing Mr. McCain, 4 percent supporting Mr. Huckabee, 3 percent for Mr. Paul and 6 percent undecided.

“Mitt Romney can thank Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul for helping to split the anti-Romney vote in Massachusetts. Without them, this race would be much closer,” Mr. Paleologos said.

He told The Washington Times that Mr. Romney “bested” Mr. McCain on who would do a better job on the economy (by 62 percent to 23 percent), on health care (51 percent to 26 percent) and on “improving my life” (49 percent to 25 percent).

“However, McCain was seen as the better of the two on ‘keeping us safe,’ ” Mr. Paleologos said.

Respondents viewed their own situations through partisans lenses, with primary voters split on whether they are better off today than they were eight years ago. Only 35 percent of Democratic voters said they are better off today; 59 percent said they are not. Republicans by 62 percent felt they are better off since the year 2000; 32 percent said they are not.

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