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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ohio Dem Straw Poll Results: Obama Tops Hillary

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Sen. Barack Obama cruised to a solid victory in the first presidential straw poll sponsored by a Democratic organization in Ohio. He received 36% of the vote in the non-binding beauty contest last night sponsored by the Hamilton County Democratic Party. The ballots were counted by optical-scan voting machines operated by volunteers from the county's board of election. Sen. Hillary Clinton finished second with 24% and John Edwards was third with 22%.

[UPDATE: 7:50 AM edt -- Here's another straw poll story from this morning's Cincinnati Enquirer. It is by the newspaper's veteran political writer Howard Wilkinson, who crossed paths a few times with The Bellwether at the event last night. In his report today, Wilkinson didn't seem to think much of Obama's showing. And he didn't seem to capture the enthusiasm of the straw poll process.]

Critics could dismiss the straw poll as unscientific, and they would be correct to a point. But the top tier of the Democratic field finished as the top tier, just as they do in the national polls except for one significant difference -- Clinton was not on top.

There were 285 ballots cast in a theater in a city neighborhood where the county Democratic organization held a rally for its City Council candidates. All the party's announced 2008 candidates were listed on the ballot. Al Gore, the party's 2000 nominee, was not included in the straw poll because he says he in not running, said Party Chair Tim Burke.

Here are the numbers and percentage for each candidate:

1. Barack Obama, D-Ill. -- 102 votes, 36%.

2. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. -- 69 votes, 24%.

3. John Edwards, D-N.C. -- 64 votes, 22.4%.

4. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH. -- 17 votes, 6%.

5. Bill Richardson, D-N.M. -- 16 votes, 6%.

6. Joe Biden, D-DEL. -- 13 votes, 5%.

7. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. -- 4 votes, 2%.

8. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska -- 0.

The straw poll results run counter to scientific sampling by Quinnipiac University, which found earlier this month that Clinton was supported by 44% of Ohio Democrats sampled. Her lead put her far ahead of Obama at 15%. Edwards had 11% and the rest of the field, including Kucinich, was in single digits. National polls in the last three weeks also show Clinton with a huge lead, ranging from 18 to 20 points over Obama. Pollster Scott Rasmussen's survey of 750 likely voters Sept. 5-8 found Clinton supported by 43% of Democrats, and he has already declared her the default victor on the party's presidential primaries before a single vote has been cast.

Paul DeMarco, a Cincinnati lawyer who is organizing for the Obama campaign in Ohio, said the straw poll signals that the Hillary Clinton juggernaut may be overrated.

"We had a sense we would do very well. It doesn't take anything to turn out Barack supporters. It's like selling ice in the desert. This is important for us because it shows that his accessible campaign is working. He's been in Hamilton County four times, and anybody who wanted to see him could get in to see him and hear what he had to say. So that has generated tremendous energy. We think he's got appeal, and this shows that people will come out and vote for Barack Obama. Sure it's an important win. It may be a straw poll, but I'm really, really elated. "

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