UPDATE Saturday morning April 19, 2008 - Clinton has moved ahead 46% - 45%, and should make a further move ahead with the release of the third day of this three day rolling tracking poll on Sunday.
Gallup Poll Daily tracking shows that Hillary Clinton now receives 46% of the support of Democrats nationally, compared to 45% for Barack Obama, marking the first time Obama has not led in Gallup's daily tracking since March 18-20.
These results are based on interviewing conducted April 16-18, including two days of interviewing after the contentious Wednesday night debate in Philadelphia and the media focus that followed. Support for Hillary Clinton has been significantly higher in both of these post-debate nights of interviewing than in recent weeks. The two Democratic candidates are now engaged in intensive campaigning leading up to Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary and are under a continual and hot media spotlight, increasing the chances for change in the views of Democrats in the days ahead.
In just two days, since the debate Wednesday night, Barack Obama has dropped a stunning 5 percentage points in this national poll and Clinton's moved up 5%, suggesting that Obama defectors are not moving into the undecided camp, but crossing straight across to Clinton.
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The movement in these daily tracking polls is usually incrementally small, a point here and there in a single day, so it's time to sit up and take notice when there is a major shift following a major news event.
Last Wednesday's debate revealed a pathetically unprepared Barack Obama. Today's Gallup daily tracking poll shows the beginnings of a resulting change in public opinion. This is a three-day tracking poll, so it'll take another two days to see the full effect, but Obama's seven point lead has dropped to three points, a big shift in just one day.
Over a four-day period, which included additional controversy over Obama's arrogant "clinging to guns" remark, we're seeing Obama's lead drop from eleven points to three. Obama's total has dropped to 47, the first time it's dropped below 49 points in quite some time.
[The graph below charts the poll results as of Friday, April 18, 2008.]
The initial indications are that Obama may have been hurt by the debate, which was noted for its negative tone and focus on the candidates' recent "gaffes" and Obama's associations with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers (a former member of the radical Weather Underground group).
In Thursday night's interviewing, Clinton received a greater share of national Democratic support than Obama, the first time she has done so in an individual night's interviewing since April 3. That stronger showing for Clinton helped to snap Obama's streak of statistically significant leads in the three-day rolling averages Gallup reports each day. Until today, he had led Clinton by a statistically significant margin in each of the prior 11 Gallup releases.
The full impact of the debate -- and the ensuing media coverage of it -- will be apparent in the coming days, and it will soon be clear if the debate has produced a shift back to a more competitive race, or if Clinton may have received just a temporary boost in support.
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