Exit polls showing that approximately one-third of Clinton supporters would vote for John McCain, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, over Obama in a general election are also a troubling sign for the Democrat.
“This puts an exclamation point on the message from earlier primaries, that Obama needs to expand his base of support to have a firm grasp on the electorate in the fall,” says John Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “None of this means that [Senator] McCain is suddenly the favorite. It’s a Democratic year. But the results in Indiana and West Virginia suggest that McCain at least has an opening.”
Others say that such exit polling may not be a reliable indicator of how voters will actually cast their ballots in November, when feelings are less heated than they are now. They note that despite the exit polls showing that neither Obama supporters nor Clinton supporters want to vote for their candidate’s opponent in a general election, both Democratic candidates still beat McCain in head-to-head matchups.
“That tells you something about the underlying mood of the electorate,” says Professor Abramowitz. “I don’t think the fact that Obama is not doing well with white working class voters or in states like West Virginia and Kentucky means he can’t win the election.”