From NBC's Chuck Todd and Mark Murray
Earlier today, we noted the Washington Post/ABC poll that has Clinton with just a six-point lead over Obama in New Hampshire (35%-29%) -- but with more solid support than her rival from Illinois. One of the reasons for Clinton's more solid support, we speculated, is due to the fact that Obama's base in New Hampshire comes from independents, while Clinton's comes from rank-and-file Democrats.
But Democratic pollster Thomas Riehle, who isn't affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns, offers another view. "Candidates who are gaining support or losing support both tend to have a lot of soft support along a hierarchical vote continuum," he emails First Read. "Supporters have either just arrived from undecided and arrive as soft supporters, or supporters are preparing to depart to undecided, and soft support is the way station. That's why a lot of Obama support would be soft support.
"Candidates who have gained and held support for a while, or who have already lost a lot of support, both would show a large proportion of strong supporters -- either because soft supporters gained earlier have been locked in as strong supporters after a period of time, or because all that's left after a bad stretch are hard-core supporters.
"Obama's not necessarily weaker, because the proportion of his support that is soft is larger than the proportion of Clinton vote that is soft. Obama might be stronger, if his high proportion of soft support is simply an indicator that momentum is on his side -- that is, if he is able to start converting soft supporters to strong supporters while at the same time continuing to pipeline undecideds into the soft support category. Clinton might be approaching a point where she is left with only hard-core supporters and no pipeline of undecideds into her soft support category. Time will tell!"