What a Clinton Win in Pennsylvania Would Mean
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Apr 22, 2008 at 08:52:11 AM EDT
Looking at Markos' predictions of a 54 percent to 46 percent victory today for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, I think that's about where I'm at: 45-46 percent for Barack Obama, 54-55 percent for Clinton in the state, with a slightly greater likelihood that Clinton will come in above 55 percent than Obama will come in above 46 percent. Obama has been able to move his numbers up a bit in recent polling, from a ceiling of about 41 percent to a ceiling of about 44 percent in pre-election polling, and though I think he should be able to improve a point or two from that mark, I'd imagine that more undecideds would move towards Clinton than Obama (given that in states like Pennsylvania that has been the case).
Regardless of what the margin is, however, what would a Clinton win in Pennsylvania mean for the overall race for the Democratic nomination? Bloomberg News' Catherine Dodge and Kristin Jensen take a look:
To overtake Barack Obama in the nationwide popular vote, Hillary Clinton needs a bigger win in tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary than she has had in any major contest so far. And that's just for starters.
After more than 40 Democratic primaries and caucuses, Obama, the Illinois senator, leads Clinton by more than 800,000 votes. Even if the New York senator wins by more than 20 percentage points tomorrow -- a landslide few experts expect -- she would still have a hard time catching him.
``Popular vote matters,'' says Steve Grossman, a marketing executive and one of Clinton's top fundraisers. ``If there is an opportunity for her to pick up enough popular votes, that is a powerful calling card to the superdelegates to say the will of the people is a split decision.''
To earn that split decision, though, Clinton would need a 25-point victory in Pennsylvania, plus 20-point wins in later contests in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico. Even that scenario assumes Clinton, 60, would break even in Indiana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana and Oregon -- a prospect that's not at all certain.
The folks at First Read did their own number crunching today, and found that in the case of a 10-point win for Clinton today, followed by very favorable results in the remaining primaries (for instance, only losing by 10 points in North Carolina rather than the close to 20-point deficit she nows faces in the state), Clinton would still end up close to 200,000 votes short of winning the nation-wide popular vote --
a margin large enough so that Obama would still lead in this tally even if Florida were included as well. (Update [2008-4-22 13:6:6 by Jonathan Singer]: It looks like either I'm reading the First Read folks incorrectly or they're just wrong when they write, "So Team Clinton couldn't get there with also adding Florida; they'd need Michigan, too", because Clinton's margin in the uncontested and non-delegate yielding Florida contest was larger than 200,000 votes.)
Does this all mean that a Clinton win in Pennsylvania would be meaningless? Far from it. If Clinton can exceed expectations and win by a healthy double-digit margin tonight, as well as eat away a significant chunk of Obama's delegates, she would have more than enough reason to keep her campaign going, at least through North Carolina and Indiana, and probably even through to the end of the voting process in early June. However, it is important to keep in mind -- for voters, for election-watchers, for superdelegates, for the candidates themselves -- that even under some of the rosiest predictions, Clinton will not be able to overtake Obama in the pledged delegate race, she won't likely be able to overtake him in the popular vote race, and, without an immense and unexpected movement from within the ranks of the superdelegates, she won't be able to overcome his overall delegate lead by the time Democrats stop voting at the beginning of June.