Starting Gate: Delta Divide

It's no secret that the growing negativity in the Democratic race is cause for concern within the party. Going into a six week respite from primary contests, party activists voters and, most importantly, superdelegates, will be watching for how heated it gets.

A peak inside the exit polls from Mississippi suggests they may have something to worry about. A party that began this primary season fairly united behind their entire field of candidates appears to be hardening into separate camps, according to at least some indicators.

In yesterday's contest, majorities of Democratic voters said they would be satisfied with either Obama or Clinton as their nominee, but each camp's voters don't express much enthusiasm for the other candidate. Among those voting for Hillary Clinton, just 27 percent said they would be satisfied if Barack Obama were the nominee. Seventy two percent said they would be dissatisfied.

According to analysis provided by the CBS News election and survey unit, that has shifted since Super Tuesday on February 5th when a combined 49 percent of Clinton voters in all the states said they would be satisfied with Obama as the nominee. In South Carolina, that number was 69 percent. It was 55 percent in Maryland and 57 percent in Virginia.

Obama voters were more likely to say they would be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee in Mississippi where 42 percent said so. But 57 percent said they would be dissatisfied. On Super Tuesday, that number among Obama voters was 52 percent. It was 53 percent in Maryland and 45 percent in Virginia.

Neighboring Louisiana, which voted on February 9th, did have similar numbers to Mississippi's. Just 32 percent of Clinton voters said they would be satisfied with Obama and 49 percent of his voters said so of her. Still, coming after several weeks of intense and heated campaign rhetoric about readiness, honesty and character, it's a worrying trend for Democrats looking to head into November united and with a head of steam.

Even the idea of a "dream ticket" may not be finding purchase among the two camps. Obama's voters are more receptive to the idea. Fifty eight percent of Obama's voters said they would like him to choose Clinton but only 38% of Clinton's voters said they'd her to put Obama on the ticket.

There are also signs that Clinton may be having some success in raising questions about Obama among Democratic voters. In Mississippi, Clinton carried late-deciders – those who said in exit polls they had made their minds up about who to support within the last week – by a 52 percent to 41 percent margin. Although most had made up their minds before, 21 percent said they had not until the past week.

Obama had been winning late-deciders handily in earlier contests. In Maryland, which held its primary on February 12th, Obama won 52 percent of those who decided who to support in the last week of the campaign compared to 43 percent for Clinton. And in Virginia, on the same day, Obama won that category by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin. Late deciders accounted for 26 percent of the total vote in Maryland and 27 percent in Virginia.

Clinton also did better among late-deciders in Texas and Ohio – after she had begun sharpening her attacks on Obama. While neither are the incumbent in the race, Clinton is more familiar to Democrats, something that should make it harder for her to gather the votes of wavering or undecided voters. They presumably would have more hardened opinions of her and the suggestion she is edging Obama out in that category suggests that her criticisms might be sticking.

And there's still six long weeks before Pennsylvania. (Thanks to Sarah Dutton and Jennifer De Pinto of the CBS News election and survey for the assist on this analysis).

"Racism Works In Two Different Directions:" Geraldine Ferraro's comments to the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, California asserting that Obama is "lucky" to be a black man in politics and insinuating that the country is "caught up" in the idea of electing the first black president. After a day full of back-and-forth over Ferraro's comments, including a call by the Obama campaign for Clinton to disassociate herself with the one-time vice presidential nominee, Ferraro is defending herself in another interview with the Daily Breeze.

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," Ferraro told the paper yesterday afternoon. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

Now What? The Florida Democratic House delegation last night released the following joint statement opposing the idea of an all new mail-in primary in the state: "We are committed to working with the DNC, the Florida State Democratic party, our Democratic leaders in Florida, and our two candidates to reach an expedited solution that ensures our 210 delegates are seated. Our House delegation is opposed to a mail-in campaign or any redo of any kind."

Around The Track

  • "I think any Republican leader in this country would be honored to be asked to serve as the vice presidential nominee, myself included." – Mitt Romney, in an interview with Fox News.
  • The AFL-CIO today is expected to announce a $53 million effort to elect a Democratic president with a "McCain revealed" campaign.
  • In Indiana, Democrat Andre Carson won a special election to fill the seat of his grandmother, Julia Carson, who died last December. He becomes the second Muslim elected to Congress.
  • After last night's Mississippi primary, Obama holds a 1,591 to 1,471 lead over Clinton in the CBS News delegate estimate.