Obama takes on Clinton in NY, New Jersey primaries

A new New Jersey poll has Obama cutting Clinton's lead from double digits to just five points in NJ.

obama points 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
obama points 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Soaring in national polls, Illinois Senator Barack Obama headed to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's home turf Monday to try to undercut her among her own constituency on the eve of the crucial Tuesday primaries.
He did so against a backdrop rife with meaning, speaking at the Meadowlands sports complex in New Jersey, which hosts the New York Giants football team. He appeared there the day after the underdog Giants completed a come-from-behind win to wrest the Super Bowl championship from the undefeated New England Patriots.
Obama is charging for a similar upset in New Jersey, where Clinton's once formidable lead in the polls continues to narrow, as well as a strong position in New York among Clinton's base of support.
While national surveys now have the two in a statistical dead heat for the lead, a new New Jersey poll has Obama cutting Clinton's lead from double digits to just five points. She is still beating him in New York by a margin of over 15 points, but this is also lower than her numbers last month.
The growing enthusiasm for Obama measured in the polls was reflected in the energy of the audience at the Meadowlands rally, organized at the last minute and held in the middle of the day.
"People are electrified right now. People are really excited," said Teddy Stern, a New Jersey resident who attended the rally.
He predicted that his candidate would win his state, saying, "Hillary's just so entrenched in New York that there are a lot of people who aren't going to give him a chance. There are a lot more people that are open to him in New Jersey."
The Jewish 25-year-old video producer said his support for Obama "transcends my religion and nationality. I support him as a human being."
He is not the only young Democrat to be inspired by the fresh-faced Obama and his personal story. Indeed, young voters are a key part of Obama's increasing appeal.
Clinton, meanwhile, has been trying to shore up her backing. In a sign of the closeness of the race, she is trying to make sure that her supporters don't assume a victory even in New York and make the effort to turn out to vote.
On the heels of a New England tour, she will be finishing out Monday in New York for a "town hall" meeting to be broadcast on an hour-long media buy on the Hallmark Channel.
Her supporters were also pounding the pavement in New York's Orthodox community, which seem to back her over Obama. There is some fear that the Orthodox will stay home Tuesday, giving more weight to the African-American vote, which largely favors Obama.
Though Clinton is still likely to come out on top in New York, a close finish could further erode the campaign strategy positioning her as inevitably claiming front-runner status.
Additionally, because the contests in New York and New Jersey aren't winner-take-all, a strong showing by Obama could have very real implications for the race for delegates, as he would still end up with many from the delegate-rich Empire State.
New York is the second-most populous state competing Tuesday out of 22 contests on the Democratic side, with California the largest. Unlike New York's primary, where only registered members of the party can vote, independents can also participate in California's Democratic primary. That situation is likely to help Obama, whose surge has been fueled in part by party outsiders.
The same dynamic has helped Arizona Sen. John McCain on the Republican side, so he stands to be hurt by the fact that only registered Republicans can vote in California. But he still holds the lead in polls there as well as nationally.
One of the few places where he lags behind top rival Mitt Romney is Massachusetts, where Romney recently served as governor. McCain too aimed for his competitor's territory ahead of the primary, appearing in Massachusetts Monday morning before heading to New Jersey and New York himself.
Though Massachusetts Republicans tend to be moderate, as do Republican Jews, and McCain appeals to the moderate wing of the party, Romney's deep connections to the state have so far put him in good stead there.
Elsewhere, though, McCain's margins of victory seem to be increasing, putting him in good position to pull off the Republican nomination coming out of the upcoming votes.