The Challenges Ahead: Polls Point to Candidates' Future Hurdles

Across Democratic primaries yesterday, 52 percent said they cared most about the candidate who "can bring about needed change," more than twice as many as picked the No. 2 attribute, experience (23 percent). And Obama won those "change" voters by more than 2-1, 67 percent to 30 percent.

Clinton also needs to shed her reputation as a lightning rod for partisanship. When Democrats yesterday were asked which candidate can do more to "unite the country," it was 50 percent for Obama, 39 percent for Clinton.

Among population groups, Clinton displayed weakness among white men; they split narrowly for Obama, 48-46 percent, while she won white women by 24 points, 60-36 percent. In previous primaries aggregated, by contrast, white men voted 42-23-20 percent, Clinton-Obama-Edwards.

For a state-specific example, Clinton's weakness among white men can be illustrated in California, where they broke 55-35 percent for Obama.

OBAMA — Winning white voters — particularly white women — is Obama's biggest challenge; he also needs to improve among Hispanics, and to establish that he has adequate experience for the presidency — to convince voters he'd be a steady hand at the tiller.

Whites accounted for 61 percent of Democratic voters Tuesday, and Clinton won them overall by 12 points, 53-41 percent. Whites, naturally, trend to make up a larger share of the general election electorate, 77 percent in 2004.

Hispanics accounted for 16 percent of Democratic voters — they were about as numerous as blacks, 17 percent — and they went heavily for Clinton, 63-35 percent, a big chunk of votes for Obama to lose.

On experience, nearly a quarter of Democratic voters picked it as the top attribute, and Obama's weakness in this group is glaring — they went 91-5 percent for Clinton. That carries over to some policy issues — Clinton won by 8 points among voters who cared most about the economy (the top issue), and by 12 points among health care voters. Related to experience overall, convincing voters of his abilities at economic stewardship is a key job for Obama.

Obama beat Clinton by a dozen points among voters concerned most about the Iraq war. But in another result that cuts to experience, Clinton led him, 51-37 percent, as best qualified to be commander in chief.

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