Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank God It's Tuesday

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 272

Today is the date of the oh-so-long-awaited Pennsylvania primary, and the results could be decisive in determining the outcome of the Democratic nomination process.

A few background notes:

  • Pennsylvania is the largest of the 10 remaining Democratic nominating contests this year, with 158 pledged delegates up for grabs; the Keystone State will also send 29 super delegates to August's Democratic National Convention in Denver.
  • The most recent polling average calculated by Real Clear Politics gives Hillary Clinton a 6.1% advantage over Obama among Pennsylvania Democrats. If this holds, will a 6% margin of victory for Clinton be enough to sustain her campaign amid the ongoing calls for her to exit the race? An old adage in politics is that a win is a win is a win, but that may not hold true for Clinton unless her margin of victory significantly exceeds expectations.
  • A recent district-by-district analysis by Congressional Quarterly predicts that Clinton will bring home 53 delegates to Obama's 50, a net gain of only 3 delegates. Definitely something to watch when the returns start coming in.
    [UPDATE: the Washington Post has published this helpful info: "The state has a two-part primary ballot, with voters choosing a presidential candidate and also picking from a slate of local delegates. Essentially, each of the state's 19 congressional districts runs a separate contest for delegates, weighted according to turnout in recent elections. A total of 103 delegates will be awarded according to each district's popular vote, while the remaining 84 will be distributed according to the statewide popular vote, or as unpledged superdelegates."]
  • From the standpoint of immediate practicality, perhaps more important for the shape of the race than popular vote totals and delegate hauls will be how Pennsylvania's results influence campaign fundraising, particularly for Hillary Clinton. FEC reports released a few days ago show Clinton's campaign $10.3 million in debt with just $9.3 million cash on hand at the beginning of April. Barack Obama, by contrast, began April with $42 million in cash on hand and only $663,000 in debt. If the results in Pennsylvania don't provide the needed encouragement for donors to open their wallets - big time and in a hurry - for Hillary Clinton, that may be the ball game in and of itself, irrespective of other factors.

Pennsylvania as been famously described as Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other and Alabama in between. Having lived in Philadelphia for more than five years and volunteering there for John Kerry in 2004, I can vouch for there being some truth in this. Pennsylvania is a sprawling, complex state, and is likely to deliver results to match.

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