Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Super-Duperest Tuesday of them all: Live-blogging Indiana and North Carolina

By Michael J.W. Stickings

UPDATED FREQUENTLY. SEE BELOW.

9:05 pm - Alright, so I'm a bit late to the show. But here we go...

9:06 pm - As you may already know, and should know if you're paying any attention, North Carolina was called early for Obama, right after polls closed at 7:30. He's currently up 60-38, with about a quarter of precincts reporting. Drudge reported earlier today that Clinton insiders were preparing for a 15-point defeat -- expectation-lowering spin, it seemed. But now? The current 22-point margin may not hold up, but it looks like a decisive victory for Obama. Actually, the margin surprises me. The final RCP Average was Obama +8.0. I was predicting an Obama win of 7-11 points.

Obviously, Obama is benefitting from the favourable demographics of the state: it's heavily black, much more so than Indiana. As The Stump's Noam Scheiber has pointed out, though, Obama may also have benefitted from heavy early voting: as many as half a million people may have voted early (that is, before today, in advance polls).

ABC News has more here.

There had been talk of Hillary eating into Obama's support among blacks resulting from the Wright controversy. However, exit polls suggest that Obama won over 90% of the black vote in North Carolina. New voters (mainly, I assume, those who are young and/or were inspired by Obama to vote) are also going for Obama by a huge margin, 68-26.

Ambinder has more on the exit polls here. Including: "The percentage of Clinton voters who say they'd choose McCain over Obama in a general election is approaching 40% in Indiana." The media will make much of this, but Clinton supporters could eventually soften: would they really support McCain over Obama? I suspect the party will come together to back Obama. As well, many voters who would never (or rarely) vote for a Democrats may have voted for Hillary today. (Rush Limbaugh was encouraging his listeners to vote Hillary. Needless to say, his listeners will either vote for McCain in November or sit out altogether if they consider McCain insufficiently extreme, that is, not enough of a wingnut.

9:28 pm - The results have narrowed in North Carolina. Obama is now up 57-41.

Hillary is up 52-48 in Indiana, with almost three quarters of precincts reporting. More to come...

By the way, CNN has the updated results here.

9:37 pm - Clarifying the Limbaugh point above: The Indianapolis Star reported this morning (scroll down to 10:51 am) that "hardcore" Republicans were coming out to vote in the Democratic primary. In other words, there was a lot of crossover voting.

9:41 pm - The final RCP average for Indiana was Clinton +5.0. I was predicting a Hillary win of 4-8 points. A loss by less than 5 points would be fantastic for Obama.

9:46 pm - CBS News has called Indiana for Hillary. I'm not sure what CNN is waiting for. The question isn't whether she'll win Indiana but by how much.

MSNBC has full exit poll results for Indiana and North Carolina.

The results continue to narrow in North Carolina. Obama is now up by 14 points, 56-42.

9:51 pm - Interesting note from The Plank's Isaac Chotiner: "Chuck Todd just said that Obama aides believe they will come up only 10,000 votes short in Indiana when the vote counting is done." (I've been watching CNN, not MSNBC -- not sure why. It's not like CNN is any good, and the talking heads are especially annoying tonight.) Is this possible? I've used the word "fantastic" already. This would be incredible -- and perhaps mean the end of Hillary's campaign. But it seems unlikely.

9:55 pm - Another great speech from Obama. Obviously, he performs especially well when he wins. This was reminiscent of his election-night speeches during his February sweep.

And I agree with Jason Zengerle: "The most interesting thing I heard in Obama's speech--besides the fact that he called Indiana for Hillary before the networks did -- was his appeal for party unity. A few weeks ago, when Obama spent the bulk of his Pennsylvania concession speech talking about McCain, it seemed forced, like he was trying to deny the fact that Hillary's win was a setback for him. But tonight, he talked about Hillary a lot and he made an explicit appeal to her supporters to back him should he win the nomination. When Obama looked to November after Pennsylvania, it felt fake, like he was a candidate pretending to be unfazed. When he looked to November tonight, it felt completely natural, like he really was the de facto nominee."

He was, in a word, presidential. Again.

9:58 pm - CNN still isn't calling Indiana. Hmmm.

10:35 pm - Here are the current numbers:

Indiana: Clinton 52-48.

North Carolina: Obama 56-42.

In Indiana, as expected -- the county map is here -- Obama is doing well in Marion County (i.e., Indianapolis and surrounding area), where he is leading Hillary 67-33., as well as in other urban counties like Allen (Fort Wayne) and St. Joseph (South Bend), and in Monroe County, home to Bloomington and Indiana University. Hillary is doing well in the rural and small-town areas of the state, as well as in Evansville, down in the south-west corner.

What it all comes down to now is Lake County, up in the north-west, near Chicago, which includes Gary, a city with a pro-Obama mayor and a large black population. Apparently there are a lot of absentee ballots, and no results have yet been released. Obama needs to win the county overwhelmingly to win the state -- and he'll likely win it, but not by enough, given that Hillary has done well in the neighbouring counties. Still, he could pull much closer to Hillary. She's up by 4 points now. What if Obama is able to cut that to 3 or 2 with a strong showing in Lake? He would have far exceeded expectations (although he's exceeded them already), as he is exceeding expectations in North Carolina. In terms of the expectations game, then, he will have won the day. And, as we know, expectations matter. They feed how the media report on and interpret the race.

But this is about delegates. And, with such a strong showing today, Obama has expanded his lead among pledged delegates (and increased his lead in the overall popular vote). The math was already looking bad for Hillary. After tonight, it's even worse. As well, these results counter her electability argument directed at the superdelegates. Is she really more electable? Did she really have so much "tide-is-turning" momentum coming out of Pennsylvania? (Remember that Obama is doing well even after the whole Wright controversy dominated the news.) What do today's results do to convince uncommitted superdelegates to side with Hillary or to persuade Obama's superdelegates to switch sides? Nothing. Yes, Hillary continues to do well among working-class whites, but many of them will vote for McCain anyway and, regardless, many of those who are committed Democrats would support Obama in the general election. If anything, today's results reinforce Obama's frontrunner (and, indeed, presumptive-nominee) status: He is in the lead and has an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates. And, tomorrow, he will be further ahead than he was yesterday.

11:50 pm - The results have started coming in from Lake County, about a quarter of precincts reporting, all -- John King of the Magic Board says -- in Gary. Hillary is now just up 51-49, with Obama taking, so far, 75% of the vote in Lake. That won't hold, I suspect, given that Hillary will win the non-urban parts of the country, but, overall, Obama should win the county and keep the contest closer, or at least much closer than expected. A 52-48 or 51-49 loss would still be huge for Obama. (Yes, how strange it is. A loss can be a "win" in this crazy system.)

12:01 am - Nothing new from Lake County. Hillary could expand her lead in small Union County, on the Ohio border (and King keeps talking about it), but there are still precincts to report in Monroe, Marion, and, just to the north of the latter, Hamilton -- Obama is leading big in all three counties.

12:39 am - More results from Lake: Obama is up 65-35 there, with over half of precincts reporting. It's still 51-49 for Hillary state-wide.

12:45 am - I haven't yet mentioned the Republicans. But I think it's interesting (and significant) that McCain only won 77% of the vote in Indiana. Which means that a whopping 23% of Republicans -- and I'm not being facetious -- voted for candidates (Huckabee, Paul, and Romney) who are no longer in the race. Same in North Carolina, where McCain only won 73% of the vote, with 20% in total going to Huckabee and Paul. "No Preference" even got 4% in North Carolina (on the Democratic side it was just 1%). Can you feel the love?

12:47 am - Michael Crowley: "Other people seem to know things I don't, but Tim Russert is talking about this race in the past tense and Matt Drudge's headline refers to Obama as 'the nominee.' Wow." Yes, wow. I don't put too much stock into what the likes of Russert and Drudge say -- the media are all about the hype -- but it does seem that the dynamic shifted once again with tonight's results. The previous dynamic (or media narrative) had Obama up but weakened by the Wright controversy and other problems and Hillary closing and looking strong. The new one -- and, of course, it's all about the here and now, about what just happened, largely decontextualized and with little to no historical perspective -- has Obama with the momentum and, once more, an insurmountable lead. But he's not yet "the nominee" -- let's not get ahead of ourselves.

12:53 am - Actually, Russert was more blunt: "We now know who the Democratic nominee will be." Well, we'll see.

1:12 am - Well, we're pretty much done:

Obama wins North Carolina by 14 points, 56-42.

Hillary wins Indiana by 2 points, 51-49. Obama won Lake County 55-45 -- not quite enough to put him over the top. He's down by just 22,000 votes out of well over 1.2 million cast.

Overall, a big night for Obama. We'll have to wait for the delegate totals, but Obama was able to extend his lead in both pledged delegates and the popular vote. And he was able to exceed expectations -- and perhaps to establish a new narrative.

And so now it's on to West Virginia (May 13), then to Kentucky and Oregon (May 20), then to Puerto Rico (June 1), and then to Montana and South Dakota (June 3). Hillary should win West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico, but Obama should win the other three. In other words, the remaining contests could play to a draw. Which would leave Obama still in front, depending on what the remaining uncommitted superdelegates do. It seems unlikely that they would flock en masse to Hillary. With Obama managing to get through a difficult stretch of the race (the Wright controversy, the "bitter" comment, losses in Ohio and Pennsylvania) intact, and doing so well tonight, it seems rather that they would at worst divide evenly and at best commit in large numbers (that is, a large majority of them) to Obama.

But, of course, the race isn't over yet. And, as I said above, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.

1:28 am - And that's it for me. Thanks for tuning in. Good night.

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