As expected, Clinton won the primary in Pennsylvania last night. The only real question was, what would her margin of victory be?
With 98% in, Clinton’s lead is back down to a hair below 9.5%.
That isn’t such an impressive win. The demographics of Pennsylvania are enormously to Clinton’s benefit — better even than Ohio. For example, approximately 15% of the population is older than 65. It was a closed primary, shutting out the independents who have broken disproportionately for Obama. And rumour has it that racism may have been a significant factor in the state:
Barack Obama’s campaign opened a downtown office here on March 15, just in time for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was not a glorious day for Team Obama. Some of the green signs the campaign had trucked in by the thousands were burned during the parade, and campaign volunteers — white volunteers — were greeted with racial slurs.
Indeed, I am reluctantly concluding that racism explains why Clinton consistently outperforms her polling results. In Pennsylvania, the latest polls showed a Clinton margin of 6%-8%; instead, she nearly achieved 10%. I suspect the explanation is that “undecideds” belatedly break for Clinton because of unconscious racism.
One note on the news media’s coverage of the primary: I was appalled to see how seriously the networks are taking Clinton’s absurd arguments.
I don’t usually watch network news on primary nights: I’m content to follow the returns on politico.com. I was dismayed to see CNN exploring three different ways of counting the popular vote, including Florida in the third model.
The facts are: (a) that the nominee is determined by delegates, not by the candidate’s share of the popular vote; (b) that popular vote counts exclude some of the caucus states, which don’t all report a popular vote tally; (c) that the Democratic National Committee has already decided that Florida’s vote doesn’t count; and (d) that Clinton is simply not going to catch Obama on any metric, either delegates or share of the popular vote.
Next, CNN turned its attention to the “big state” question: Obama “can’t win” Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. But this is a foolish argument! In a primary, Democrat voters are choosing between two Democrat candidates. That they somewhat prefer Clinton to Obama does not prove that they will prefer McCain (a Republican) to Obama.
Admittedly, some of those voters say they won’t support Obama in the general. But that sort of poll is largely meaningless, taken in the heat of the moment during a hotly contested nomination battle.
I forget what annoyed me in the MSNBC coverage, but it was something similar. Of course, the networks don’t want the nomination to be sewn up: they want it to be anybody’s contest for as long as possible. It’s a better story that way, and thus good for their ratings.
But the nomination is already decided. It has been over for a couple of months already. Clinton’s last court of appeal is the superdelegates:
Even as Clinton has started winning her share of superdelegate endorsements again, Obama’s are still coming faster — my rough count gives him about twice as many as her this month.
Even during the Rev. Wright furor, even during “bittergate”, the superdelegates have continued to trickle to Obama. Inexorably, Obama is catching Clinton in the one remaining metric where she retains a lead.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s shameless campaign continues to hurt Obama’s chances in the general.
But Pennsylvania was Clinton’s last hurrah. There were 188 delegates up for grabs last night. In two weeks, North Carolina’s 134 delegates will be determined — and they will go decisively to Obama. No other remaining state has more than 100 delegates.
Here’s hoping that Obama also wins in Indiana (84 delegates) on the same night, May 6. I think he will. And then the superdelegate trickle will become a flood, and even the cable TV networks will have to face facts: Clinton has lost.