Predicting California isn't easy

On the morning of Super Tuesday, polls show widely varying results for the Democratic primary in a key state.

Published February 5, 2008 3:45PM (EST)

Looking for some early sign about how the Democratic race in California, one of the most important states on that side of the aisle, will shake out tonight? Good luck.

On the one hand, you could look to the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll, released today, and decide that Sen. Barack Obama has a nearly overwhelming advantage in the state. That poll shows Obama leading rival Sen. Hillary Clinton 49 percent to 36 percent, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent, and has the momentum strongly in Obama's favor.

But on the other hand, there's the latest SurveyUSA poll, which shows nearly the exact opposite result. That survey, conducted over the same dates as the aforementioned one, has Clinton leading 52 percent to 42 percent. SurveyUSA characterizes the results as showing that "Hillary Clinton appears to fend off a late charge from Barack Obama."

If you're hoping that at least by tonight you'll know who -- if anyone -- was right about how California will shake out, we've got some bad news on that front as well.

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle's Politics Blog noted, "Want to know who will win the California primary? You'll probably be waiting until Wednesday morning -- and maybe longer," and quoted Stephen Weir, the president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and the top election official in Contra Costa County, as saying, "The East Coast is going to tune in the next morning and we are still going to be counting."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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