On yesterday's edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews empaneled an all-star coterie of female political experts - former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and EMILY's List executive director Ellen Moran - to discuss the state of play for important women's issues in the 2008 general election. As Matthews bounced back for the second quarter hour, he led with some poll numbers that he framed as compelling and new:
An amazing new number came out today. Planned Parenthood commissioned this poll by Peter Hart, the much respected Democratic pollster who is also part of the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll operation, that says that 50% of American women voters today in key battleground states don't know John McCain's position on on abortion rights. In fact, 36% - more than a third - of pro-choice McCain voters are less likely to vote for him once they figure out that he wants to get rid of Roe v. Wade.
Asked for comment, Ellen Moran replied:
We're just a week into the general election and the case hasn't been made for these two candidates. Elections are about choices and I think certainly, Senator Obama's campaign has a lot of work to do in framing that choice. All of the allied forces, the groups that work on these issues need to make the case to these women voters. Because there is a look of information out there. And once this information comes to light, it will be really bad news for Senator McCain.
But this discussion was odd and disconcerting, because, in fact, there was nothing amazingly "new" about these poll numbers. In fact, the poll Matthews was citing was released back in March, based on polling that was done in February. And here we have these two talking about it as if it were preserved in amber.
But a lot can change in, say, four months. Numerous primaries can be held. A Democratic candidate can be chosen. That candidate's rival can deliver a rousing, kick-ass speech focused on unifying their party's coalition. And along the way, the Republican candidate can average a gaffe a day as he stumbles, vaguely in the direction of November.
It seems a small matter, and it certainly would be no big deal to cite an old poll when more contemporaneous statistics can't be brought to bear. Still, it seems simple enough to not present a month-old poll as "amazing new numbers" that "came out today." And it seems perverse to lay this old poll out there for the riveting shock value of what women didn't seem to know about McCain four months ago when there are, in fact, actual new numbers to provide an updated currency and context, and suggest a fluidity of opinion. And, as luck would have it, such numbers exist. From a Gallup poll, released, uhm...yesterday:
Obama's lead among women has now expanded from five percentage points to 13, while his deficit among men has shrunk from six points to two.
These figures are based on aggregated Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviews with national registered voters conducted May 27-June 2 (the week immediately before Obama clinched the nomination on June 3), which showed Obama and McCain tied at 46%, and June 5-9 (the five days since it was reported that Clinton would suspend her campaign), which show Obama ahead, 48% to 42%. Obama clinched the nomination on the evening of June 3, and the news media reported Clinton would suspend her campaign on the evening of June 4. Thus, the data give a clear picture of voter support before and after Clinton's exit.
And, as the folks at MyDD clarify:
Remarkably, Obama's lead over McCain among women now essentially matches Clinton's 12 point lead over McCain during the last full week of her campaign (Obama's lead during the same period had been a paltry 5 points.)
See! A lot can happen in the space of a season, up to and including the opportunity to learn more about one's options vis-a-vis Presidential candidates.