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Polls, polls and more polls

February 14, 2008 |  9:50 am

New polls out today show some mixed news for the Democratic contenders, with Barack Obama holding a slight lead (but within the margin of error) in Wisconsin, which votes Tuesday, and Hillary Clinton with a solid lead in Ohio, which votes March 4.

But delving inside the numbers shows the race remains unsettled, with one in four of those polled in Wisconsin saying they could still change their minds (anyone remember New Hampshire?).

As we've pointed out before, polls are good at telling us what has happened, but not so good at telling us what will happen. So what has happened is that Obama and Clinton have pretty much split the Wisconsin electorate, and either of them could win it at this point, while she has kept her lead among key constituencies in Ohio.

But what will happen is a matter of conjecture. So let's conject. If Obama wins Wisconsin convincingly, you have to suspect the race in Ohio will tighten. Wisconsin would be the ninth straight win for Obama, and he would have shut out Clinton since Super Tuesday (assuming he also wins Hawaii next Tuesday, which would give him 10 victories in a row).

But if Clinton wins Wisconsin, where Democrats proudly embrace the state's progressive tradition, then she would head into Ohio and Texas having thrown a lasso around the horse on which some think Obama is running away.

Winning Ohio and Texas could give Clinton the lead again in the delegate count, and then this all begins to look like the final quarter of a football game.

-- Scott Martelle

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