Rich Galen

The USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday morning showed - for the first time - that Barack Obama has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in a national survey.

The numbers were: Obama 30%, Clinton 29%.

According to USA Today's Susan Page: "The survey of 310 Democrats and 160 independents who 'lean' Democratic, taken Friday through Sunday, has a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points" which means that Hillary might be ahead by as many as nine percentage points, or she might be as far behind as 11.

Statistically insignificant as the Obama lead might be, it is exactly what the Clinton campaign has been trying to avoid since the polls closed last November 7 and the Clinton Senate re-election campaign became the Clinton Presidential campaign. The watchword of the Clinton campaign has been "inevitability."

When Barack Obama showed early popularity - if not early polling strength - the Clinton campaign immediately shifted into high gear, advancing the announcement of her candidacy, increasing the staff, opening offices in the early primary/caucus states, and putting her on the road.

When the first quarter fundraising numbers were released there was an expectation that Clinton's totals would be in the "gee-whiz!" range. And they were.

Unfortunately, the Obama numbers were in the "holy-you-know-what!" range.

If you deduct the $10 million Clinton transferred (quite legitimately) from her Senate campaign account and count only the money which was raised for the primary (not general) election period, Obama's campaign brought in almost $24 million to Clinton's $19 million.

As an example of how the Clinton campaign has been chasing Obama remember the Selma, Alabama visits.

After Obama's campaign announced he would be in Selma in early March to mark the 42nd anniversary of the famous civil rights march, the Clinton campaign scrambled to get an event on her schedule to make certain she was viewed as having the black vote firmly in her corner.

According to the AP's coverage at the time, "black leaders say buzz about Obama's candidacy is spreading, particularly among younger people and others who might not typically participate in elections."

Bill Clinton was brought in to help stave off any lasting damage including, according reporting at the time, an impending endorsement of Obama by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) who was described by CNN as "one of the leaders of the Selma march."

Lewis later denied he had made up his mind in the race, but the notion of Bill having to make phone calls to protect Hillary continue to reverberate in Democratic circles.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at