Monday, April 28, 2008

PA asterisks


*Double-digits: Earlier this month, omnipotent CW-arbiter Mark Halperin wrote that the number one thing Hillary Clinton had to do in Pennsylvania was "win the popular vote by more than 10.5%." If not, he added, "the media will say she didn’t beat expectations (and her Ohio margin)." Pretty soon, every Beltway blogger and bloviator was echoing his prediction: she needs to win by 10 points, they said; anything short of double-digits = disappointment.

The only problem: now that 100 percent of precincts have reported, it appears Clinton won Pennsylvania by 9.3 percent. In other words, no double-digits. She performed exactly as everyone expected--not better (and perhaps slightly worse, especially when compared to Ohio). The difference between 10 percent and 9.3 percent is marginal, of course, and hardly earth-shattering in any actual electoral sense.

P.S. Also important to note: in Pennsylvania, Clinton's impressive 33 percent margin among blue-collar whites was actually smaller than her margin among the same voters in Ohio (41 percent). It's hardly Obama's best demographic--but despite the sudden flood of "arugula gap" coverage, there's nothing in the Keystone State returns to suggest that Archie Bunker types like him any less than they did eight weeks ago. Quite the contrary, in fact.

*Closed primary: Lost amid all the furrowed-brow coverage of Obama's good-ol' boy deficit--and speculation about what it might mean come November--is the fact that Pennsylvania was a closed primary. In other words, only Democrats could vote. That's not to discount Clinton's victory; her strength relative to Obama among core Democrats is nothing to scoff at. But in terms of a) media coverage and b) the electability question, it's useful to dig a little deeper here. Based on my calculations--which I've extrapolated from Pennsylvania's 2004 election returns--about 375,000 Independents and crossover Republicans would've voted in the Keystone State primary had they been allowed. And if Obama matched his typical margin among these voters (about 25 percent), he would've emerged with nearly 100,000 additional votes, slashing Clinton's victory from nine percent to five--and generating a flurry of "Clinton fails to meet expectations" stories in the process.

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