Will women carry Clinton to the finish line?

The past couple of days have brought three radically different polls on the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary next Tuesday. Rasmussen has Hillary Clinton up by six points, 43-37, over Barack Obama — far from an insurmountable lead. According to Rasumussen, Clinton is ahead by 16 points among women, while Obama has a five-point lead among men.

But Survey USA gives Clinton a rather staggering 24-point lead, with 57 percent for the New York senator and 33 percent for Obama. Among men, the candidates are tied, with 44 percent each. Among women, Clinton polls 65 percent to Obama’s 26 percent. This is a far larger gender gap than in most other states. If the poll is correct, Massachusetts also stands out in the lack of an age gap: Clinton has 58 percent among voters under 35, and she has 57 percent among voters over 65. In all of the primaries and caucuses so far, exit polls have had Clinton doing much better among older voters and Obama besting her in the youngest age group.

The oddest survey comes from Western New England College (see PDF of results here), which has Clinton ahead by 43 percent to 15 percent. Not only is there an implausibly large "undecided" vote here, but the sample for the poll is unabashedly weighted toward Clinton. According to the pollsters themselves, "The sample of composed of a higher rate of females and individuals who are Caucasian than the population." Specifically, 64.4 percent of the respondents were women, though women make up only 51.6 percent of the Bay State’s population. So why is this poll being reported at all? It’s currently posted on Pollster.com and RealClearPolitics, but it seems utterly worthless to me.

Still, I don’t know how well Massachusetts reflects the national Democratic electorate, but that gender gap would worry me if I were Obama. If the Survey USA poll is correct, he can get half the male vote and still get trounced here. Most commentators have said that Thursday’s one-on-one debate between Clinton and Obama showed both candidates to be engaging and in command of the issues — in short, "presidential." I wonder if the gender gap will be the tie-breaking factor on Tuesday.