We have no Democratic nominee yet, but that doesn't mean that your pollsters are holding back on thinking ahead. SurveyUSA has jump started this discussion by posting a first round of state-by-state electoral polling, pitting each Democratic candidate against John McCain. You can see how Clinton stacks up here, and how Obama fares here.
Naturally, we need to bake up a cake of HuffPollstrological caveats. In the first place, the same old impediments to pure prediction still exist and should be heeded: sample size, margin of error, undecideds, independents, future GOTV efforts, a long calendar ahead of Election Day, and, of course, the fact that McCain has a jump on all this algebra while the Dems continue to fight. This map could look different every week from here on out - if you want to make use of it, study the changes and note how states trend over time.
Also: keep an eye on hard support versus soft support - pay attention to the candidates who break over fifty percent and stay there. If you are Obama today, you like the looks of your 50-41 advantage in Colorado, but that 49-42 lead in Massachusetts should be worrisome. A Democrat should be taking over fifty percent of that state, six days a week and twice on Sunday.
I'll let the commenters pretend that these polls reveal some sort of divine truths. (I'm sure they'll have all sorts of expert opinions!) Instead, let's look at how these preliminary numbers shape the argument.
CLINTON: Guess what? I beat McCain, too!
This will be an important talking point as Clinton pitches herself to superdelegates who may be thinking in terms of the general election. In some of the past weeks, the Obama campaign has made the argument that he's the only guy who can beat McCain in the general. But those were nationwide polls that groups voters together without regard for the electoral college. These numbers are going to let Hillary press the same case, now. (And yes, Obama still wins by more, but a win is a win.)
OBAMA: Guess what? I do fine in the midwest, too!
Obama brings blue to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and - critically - Ohio. Clinton loses Michigan and Iowa in the current model. And in Ohio, Obama wins by the same 50-40 margin. That allows the Obama camp to lay some claim to the "As goes Ohio, so goes the Nation" legend, themselves. (Unfortunately for Barack, the Midwest-on-the-Atlantic state of Pennsylvania is only won by Clinton.)
OBAMA: I am the candidate who makes inroads.
Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia. All are states the Dems have wanted to flip, and Obama flips them all in the current model. Clinton's only edge here comes in one of her home states - Arkansas, and West Virginia.
CLINTON: I am the candidate who holds the traditional coalition together.
Hillary: "But what's up with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Barack? I poll stronger in Massachusetts. And I WIN Florida." (Obama's retort, to be fair: "Uhm, Washington and Oregon much?)
AND HEY, DNC!: Seat those Florida and Michigan delegates!
Obama wins Michigan and Clinton wins Florida in this model. If fence-mending with the voters in these states can bring both into the Democratic fold regardless of the nominee, then let's start mending fences.
Anyway, I'll turn this over to the commentariat. Let the fur fly! Just please, please, please, do not, not, NOT use this or any polling as the basis of a cash wager. Don't you have an interest-only ARM to pay off, anyway?