Senior Political Analyst
If voters here in the San Francisco Bay Area are representative, the race between Hillary and Barack could be extremely close here in California on February 5 -- and could also hold the key to the final outcome. Two nights ago in Oakland, where I spoke, an audience of 3,000 slightly favored
her over him; last night in San Mateo, just south of the city, an audience of 2,000 raised their hands about 55-45% in his favor.
Hillary is clearly well-regarded here, especially among women, and her victory on Tuesday night has rehabilitated her candidacy. But it is also obvious that Barack has ignited a passion for his candidacy, too, and that despite his loss, he has an opening that wasn't there before Iowa.
The exit polls in New Hampshire showed that even in defeat, Barack was viewed favorably by over 80 percent of Democrats and that 46% of voters thought he was the candidate most likely to win in November versus 36% who said that about Hillary. And here's where I think he now has an opening: some 28% of the Democratic voters in New Hampshire thought Hillary could unite the country but about half felt the same way about Barack.
What I have sensed in California is that people are hugely eager to find a president who can bring the country together again. They know how essential that is in order to address challenges from Iraq and Iran to health care and climate change. Barack has made the case for change. Hillary has made an effective counter argument that she is the only one experienced enough to know how to change. What I see in California -- and what polls from New Hampshire suggest -- is that Barack now has an opening to argue with great effect: yes, but I am the only one who can bring the unity that actually makes change possible.