Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Super Tuesday -- Pennsylvania Edition

By Michael J.W. Stickings

UPDATED FREQUENTLY. SEE BELOW.

9:11 pm -- Hello, everyone. As Creature mentioned -- and make sure to read his excellent Pennsylvania primary post right below this one (or click here) -- I was on CTV Newsnet earlier this evening for a live interview segment with prime-time host Marcia MacMillan. For those of you who aren't Canadian, Newsnet started out as a sort of CNN Headline News. It has recently morphed into a rival to CBC Newsworld, the other major 24/7 news network, with its own regular programming instead of looped news delivered by a stream of anchors.

Anyway, it was fun -- and rather exciting to be on live TV. I was invited on as a Canadian political analyst, blogger (yes, the host mentioned The Reaction), and Obama supporter. I talked about why I support Obama (after initially supporting Edwards) and what I think Obama means for Canada and Canadians (good things, of course).

But enough about me. Let's turn to Pennsylvania:

9:27 pm -- No surprise. Hillary has won. The question is, by how much? Any margin above 10 points would, I concede, be a significant victory for her. A margin below 5 points would be a significant "victory" for Obama. Anywhere in between, from 5 to 10 points, would be, while still a decisive victory for Hillary, a sort of "moral victory" for Obama. He was, let us remember, down by 15-20 points just last month. As in Ohio and Texas, he has made up much of a huge deficit.

Right now, CNN has Hillary up 53-47. I'd actually be happy with that margin, but I fear it will be more. Hillary is doing well with rural and socially conservative Pennsylvanians, Obama with urban and, well, less conservative ones. Again, no surprise. We've seen this dynamic pretty much everywhere. High turnout among students, blacks, and affluent suburbanites could keep it close. High turnout in the rest of the state -- which I've heard described as Alabama in between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- could put Hillary's margin of victory where her internals had it, above 10 points and perhaps as high as 11 or 12.

Needless to say, though, not much will change with respect to the pledged delegate figures. Obama will still be well ahead, with an insurmountable lead, barring a major collapse. Even if Hillary wins Indiana -- and she will get a bump out of Pennsylvania -- Obama should win North Carolina by a solid margin. She could win Kentucky and West Virginia, but he could win Oregon. And so we could be looking at a draw from here on out. Unless, of course, the narrative shifts in her favour. Which is possible.

9:36 pm -- For what NBC/MSNBC has to say, see here.

For exit poll analysis, see ABC News and Mark Blumenthal. See also Josh Marshall and Marc Ambinder.

9:50 pm -- You want excitement? How about the Paul-Huckabee battle for second over on the Republican side?

10:01 pm -- One key pro-Clinton argument -- though it's mentioned at the top of this piece by ABC News -- is that Obama can't lock down the nomination, that he can't close. Is this a sign of inherent weakness, or what? I would argue that it is now. Hillary is a strong candidate. Pennsylvania, like Ohio, is her kind of state, a state where the Clintons have a long history, a state where she was really far ahead until Obama dramatically narrowed the gap. What's funny is that the argument that Obama can't close, an argument for Hillary, implies that Hillary is much weaker than she really is, that he should be able to close but can't. Again, it is Hillary's strength that is keeping her alive in the race. And although I would make the case for her to get out of the race, given Obama's clear delegate lead, I acknowledge that she is a formidable opponent who in any other year -- that is, without Obama in the race -- would be the easy winner. It is her misfortune that she is up against Obama. But even against Obama she's won some big states, and even after Super Tuesday. Not as many as Obama has, of course, but Ohio, the popular vote in Texas, and now Pennsylvania are collectively nothing to sneeze at.

11:10 pm -- I don't like the cocky Hillary any more than the desperate Hillary. And it was the cocky Hillary tonight. On the flip side, I thought Obama gave a good speech in Indiana. The excitement of victory wasn't there to lift his rhetoric up into the heights of inspiration, but I liked the toned-down Obama: confidence without arrogance.

11:14 pm -- Hillary's victory gave her a major popular-vote boost. As Yglesias points out, however, many of her big victories came on Super Tuesday. Obama has clearly been the stronger candidate since then. Plus, he's pulled well ahead in the Gallup tracking poll again. Will Hillary's victory in Pennsylvania lead to a narrowing of that gap? Or will Obama continue to be the preference at the national level?

11:40 pm -- Almost done. With 93% reporting, it's Hillary up by 10 points, 55-45.

Ambinder, earlier today, anticipating the post-primary spin: "Who Wins? Both, And Neither." Yes, but I do think this was a clear victory for Hillary. She has done what she needed to do: won a big state, as expected; bought more time; given herself a boost heading into Indiana and North Carolina (and perhaps a boost in contributions to a campaign that is essentially broke); and sent a message to undecided superdelegates. For Obama, though, the good news is that Pennsylvania is done. The long six-week campaign there was rough for him, but not much will change in terms of pledged delegates and he can now focus on North Carolina, where he should win, and Indiana, where he has a good shot of winning. The fewer the states left, the worse is the situation for Hillary. And with so few states left, and with the possibility that those few states will play to a draw, more or less -- meaning no significant change to the pledged delegate gap -- Obama's lead becomes ever more insurmountable.

11:54 pm -- Chait: "NBC's Ron Allen makes a smart point I haven't seen elsewhere: Hillary Clinton's two main campaign justifications contradict each other. Justification number one is that Obama can't win "the big states that Democrats will need in November." She claims this because she's winning those states in the primary, and she's doing it because she's winning a slightly larger share of the Democratic electorate there. Justification number two is that the extended primary isn't hurting the party's chances, because the Democratic base is bound to unify in the fall. As Allen points out, if that's true, then Obama shoudn't have a problem winning those states in November."

Yes, a very good point.

11:56 pm -- Hillary won affluent suburban counties like Bucks, Berks, and Montgomery (all N and NW of Philly). Scheiber notes that "Obama should have done better on the basis of raw demographics," but Hillary seems to have "[chipped] into Obama's coalition." How? The Rendell Effect? Maybe. (Two other key counties: Lancaster and York, both Philly exurbs, out towards Harrisburg. Obama won the former, Hillary won the latter. Basically a draw.)

12:02 am -- And on the Republican side... Paul (crazy libertarian) crushes Huckabee (crazy theocrat) for second! 16-11!

12:05 am -- Alright, that's it for me. Still 55-45. More tomorrow. Wait, it's after midnight, right? More later today.

Good night.

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