The Democratic half of that Globe poll I just mentioned shows Obama pulling ahead in New Hampshire--he edges Hillary 30 to 28. (He's up nine points and she's down seven since early November.) Two things jump out at me in the Globe's write-up. First, I suggested in my recent Obama piece that he could hold his own with blue-collar voters. The Globe finds evidence of this, too:
One of the major shifts in the Democratic race came in New Hampshire's biggest city, Manchester, which is home to many blue-collar voters. Last month, Clinton led Obama in the Manchester area by a wide margin, 50 percent to 18 percent. But in the new poll, Obama was narrowly ahead among Manchester voters, leading Clinton 33 percent to 31 percent.
The second thing that's interesting is the way the mandate/no mandate debate is playing out in New Hampshire. Reports the Globe:
One aspect of the healthcare debate that has divided Democratic candidates is whether individuals should be required to purchase coverage - Clinton and Edwards favor a mandate, while Obama does not. A slight majority of Democratic voters who were polled - including pluralities of Clinton and Edwards supporters - opposed such a requirement.
I wondered a few weeks ago why the Clinton campaign was going negative on Obama's character instead of hitting the healthcare issue, which seemed less fraught and likely to pay dividends on both a policy level and a preparedness level. This poll hints at an explanation: Maybe it just wasn't very effective.
Opposition to the notion of an individual health insurance mandate -- "should individuals be required to buy health insurance" -- is greatest among the less well-educated and downscale voters that are the core of Clinton's base in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
Whenever he gets asked about the mandate, Obama says the reason people don't buy health insurance isn't because they don't want it, but because they can't afford it. Whatever the policy merits of this claim--and I'm sympathetic to some of the criticism--it does look like it resonates with working-class people, who may worry about being forced to buy something they can't afford (or being fined if they don't buy it).
I think it's hard to overstate the importance of this. Healthcare is, if not the most important issue of the campaign, then arguably most important issue on which the candidates have real differences. And, as Mark says, working class people are supposed to be Hillary's base. If Hillary's base prefers Obama's solution to what they see as their biggest problem... well, you get the idea.
Second Update: John Judis points out another interesting finding in the crosstabs: Obama went from down 43-21 in the $60,000-$74,000 per year income category to up 38-21. This seems a little too dramatic to be believed--I suspect the smallish sample size had something to do with it--but, even if there's only a kernel of truth to it, it's still pretty amazing.
Also, Obama went from down 43-21 among voters with "some college" (people most pollsters consider working class) to down only 28-26. That's a pretty interesting development if true, too.