7:48 pm PDT
Three quarters of precincts reporting, and it looks like Clinton wins PA by eight points, maybe better.
ABC News asks, Is It Enough? Well, that's been the question for the last six weeks, hasn't it? The report quotes:
"Hillary Clinton needs a clear and convincing victory today in Pennsylvania if she wants to continue on in this nominating process," Democratic strategist Tad Devine told ABC News this morning.
Eight points is pretty clear and quite convincing -- that Hillary will go on, that Obama is a great pitch man but a lousy closer, and that the Democratic nominating process is dysfunctional at best and bipolar at worst.
Clinton can't quit now, not with Obama showing certain weaknesses with Democratic voters and near-fatal weaknesses with the general electorate. Keep in mind, voters want change, and voters in economically-distressed Pennsylvania more than most. But with them, Obama was either the wrong kind of change, not enough change -- or maybe too much change.
And Clinton was right, earlier today, when she asked why Obama can't "close the deal." There are probably only three kinds of Obama voters. The True Believers, the Anybody But Clintons, and the Wary. Reverend Wright and Bittergate -- and today's election -- have shown that it's not that tough to strip the Wary voters off of Obama's coattails. I mean, even Hillary Clinton can do that.
And the Democratic primaries? Look. The Republican candidates were such a sorry lot, to my tastes anyway, that I couldn't be bothered to show up for the Colorado caucuses. Even now, you hear more grumbles than praise for John McCain from the reddest of red state voters.
But Republicans settled on McCain, and quickly -- because that's what the Republican primary process is designed to do: Pick a damn candidate already.
The Democrats' process is designed to give everyone "a voice." Not a win, not a candidate, but "a voice." Unless, of course, the unelected and unaccountable "superdelegates" capriciously choose to strip the people of their voice. In which case, you know, too bad. What the Democratic primaries don't do -- what they seemed designed to put off doing -- choosing a nominee for the office of the President of the United States of America.
And for that, every pundit drawing a paycheck can be thankful. I raise my glass to Obama, to Clinton, to Howard Dean, to the DNC, and to every "bevoiced" Democrat across this great land of ours.
May they long be confused, and may the nation (or at least my paycheck) long prosper for it.
6:23 pm PDT
There was never much question that Clinton would win Pennsylvania -- the question was, by how much
Sure, everyone has called PA already, but let's wait a bit for solid numbers to come in. Think of Clinton as Punxsutawney Phil -- If she comes out tonight and sees a ten-point margin, then get ready for six more weeks of campaigning.
4:58 pm PDT
The Washington Post looks at Pennsylvania's demographics:
In terms of the demographics of today's voters, Pennsylvania's electorate appears to be an amalgam of two of its neighboring states. From a socioeconomic perspective, the state closely resembles Ohio to the west, which Clinton won by 10 points. But when it comes to partisanship and ideological make-up, the state's Democratic voters are more in line with those in Maryland to the south, where Obama won by 23 points. Both Pennsylvania and Maryland limit primary elections to party members. About two in 10 voters in Pennsylvania are union members; about the same as in Ohio and Maryland.
The Keystone State's Democratic voters are slightly older than those in either of these neighboring states; in the preliminary exit poll data voters age 65 and over make up nearly three in 10 of all Pennsylvania voters. And about one in seven are African American. Both groups are worth watching as the night unfolds.
Or, as political wonks say, "Demographics." Because, you know, we're wonks and we like all the big words. Especially words with "ick" in them. Anyway.
If PA is an amalgam of OH and MD, it also has one very big important distinction: Obama never personally insulted a few million Maryland or Ohio Democrats for their firearms or religious beliefs.
Now sit back and relax and keep clicking that Refresh button -- results will start coming in any minute.
4:20 pm PDT
ABC News quotes Clinton, pretending to wonder aloud:
But you run a very competitive race at a considerable financial disadvantage. I think maybe the question ought to be why can't he [Obama] close the deal?
It's a fair question. But a better question might be, What's wrong with the Democratic nominating process?
Look. You can become President of these United States by winning just 11 states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Of those, Clinton has won California, New York, Florida (which didn't count), Ohio, Michigan (which also didn't count), New Jersey, presumably Pennsylvania tonight, and the popular vote in Texas. If the Democrats ran a winner-take-all system like the Republicans and the Electoral College do, she'd have this thing clinched -- and Obama would look like a regional candidate who can't win much outside the South and his home state of Illinois.
Instead, the race goes on and on and the candidates get weaker and weaker and without an end in sight. And now that it's just after 5 PM in my time zone, it's time to start pouring the martinis.
3:05 pm PDT
A blog I linked to this morning claimed:
Leaked exit polls, which have been way off this cycle, and been slanted an average of 7 points in Obama's direction. A substantial Clinton lead in the exit polls might be taken modestly more seriously than, say, something that showed Obama three points ahead, but these things aren't designed for what you think they're designed for -- just ignore them.
That's good advice I'm about to ignore, what with Drudge Report screaming, "EXIT POLL DRAMA 5 PM ET: CLINTON 52, OBAMA 48." And in red typeface, too.
So we've got Clinton with a four-point lead, which would be a disaster for her. But if we take FiveThirtyEight.com's advice and "de-slant" by seven points, then you've got Clinton up by 11. And anything ten points or better, you can bet she'll stay in the race.
2:15 pm PDT
The AP has a video up on YouTube, talking to voters outside the polls in Pennsylvania. The consensus? We voted!
I have no idea why I linked to that, other than to demonstrate just how desperate news services can get, as they sit anxiously on their unreleased exit polls. Maybe there's one other reason -- the people featured in the video were all women. Remember when John Kerry was looking great in the exit polls on Election Night 2008? Turned out that the exit pollsters mostly liked talking to younger and more attractive women, which skewed the polls away from Bush.
The lesson here is: Don't trust the exit polls. And don't get too excited, either. This afternoon's video wasn't exactly filled with hot young thangs.
Do we have any real news? You bet. Keith Olbermann sat down with Hillary Clinton last night, and you can watch that video here. Assuming, of course, that you feel safe enough that Olbermann won't reach out through your monitor and jerk you around by the necktie, shouting "Neocon!"
More seriously, Bloomberg has done the math and figures:
Clinton needs a landslide victory of about 25 points in Pennsylvania, plus 20-point wins in later contests such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico to overcome Obama's more than 800,000-vote lead in popular votes garnered in primaries and caucuses already held.
At this point, the Unwritten Rules of Punditry require me to tell you that That's An Uphill Climb™.
But this must seem encouraging to Hillary fans:
Pennsylvania is on its way to the record turnout that election officials have been predicting for weeks, according to poll workers from across the state.
Election officials were reporting extremely heavy voter activity in many of the state’s 67 counties throughout the morning, starting with long lines reported even before the polls opened at 7 a.m.
“Let’s just say it’s very busy,” said Joseph Passarella, the director of voter services for Montgomery County, sounding a little harried. “Our phones have been ringing since 6:15 this morning and have been ringing nonstop. We’ve never had a primary election this busy.”
Turnout is way, way up in Deer Country, where for some reason, Obama isn't expected to do very well.
11:33 am PDT
The other Roger Simon thinks that racism might come into play in the general election, should Obama be the nominee:
There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.
How big is that percentage? An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that “about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.”
I don’t know if 8 percent sounds high or low to you, but I was amazed that 8 percent of respondents were willing to admit this to a pollster. And I figure that the true figure is much higher.
If that's the case, racism could very well determine how well Clinton does today in Pennsylvania. That aside, Obama's questionable associates are hurting him in Massachusetts, of all places. The Boston Herald's Michael Graham writes:
Adams noted during the Boston Massacre trial that “Facts are stubborn things.” And it appears that, for the moment, the facts have caught up with Obama here in Massachusetts.
How else to explain the amazing, astounding and unthinkable results of the latest SurveyUSA presidential poll: Republican John McCain is tied with Barack Obama in the Bay State.
This is where I'm required by the Unwritten Rules of Punditry to mention that A Lot Can Change Between Now and Election Day™. But I should also mention that New England voters have always had a soft spot for McCain.
Finally, EJ Dionne wonders if Obama is more like JFK... or Adlai Stevenson:
When Obama is in control of his own image, his moments of detachment and irony are celebrated as bearing remarkable similarities to those of the cool, shrewd and confident JFK, who won in 1960. When doubts about Obama creep in, those same characteristics are disparaged for resembling the diffidence and distance of Stevenson, who lost in 1952 and 1956.
Of course, JFK would have lost in 1960, if LBJ hadn't been on the ticket to hand deliver Texas and Illinois. Does that mean that a Obama/Clinton ticket could be in the cards?
10:15 am PDT
While we wait for useless exit polls to leak, let's see what the pundits are up to.
At RealClearPolitics, John McIntyre explains why Pennsylvania matters:
Where the race could get very interesting is if Clinton is able to beat Obama by double-digits. Something to keep in mind is Pennsylvania will be the first time Democratic voters, as opposed to pollsters, have had a chance to factor in some of the recent controversies surrounding Obama the last six weeks, in particular Reverend Wright and his "bitter" comments in San Francisco. A big win by Clinton may cause a reassessment of how damaging these issues might be to Obama. On the back of Senator Obama's dismal showing in the Ohio River Valley among working class whites, his performance in Pennsylvania among downscale white voters will take on heightened importance.
The Washington Post concurs:
Some say Clinton needs to win by 10 points -- which was her margin in Ohio last month. Others say eight points. Some say, given the amount of money Sen. Barack Obama is spending on television ads, anything over five points would be a respectable victory for Clinton. Staying within five points would give Obama the opportunity to assert that he overcame a state whose demographics tilted heavily to Clinton.
Maybe the John McCain campaign can buy that video off her cheap in October.
08:13 am PDT
"You’ve got to run a stake through the heart, separate the head from the body, burn the remains and scatter the ashes in heavy winds if you want to put a Clinton down for good."
(From a VodkaPundit post last January.)
Or maybe you can just lose to Hillary by less than ten points in Pennsylvania today. That's what some in the MSM are saying, anyway. Here's what the Los Angeles Times is saying:
In what may seem like a paradox, the Clinton victory predicted by nearly all public opinion polls might actually turn out to be a loss if she doesn't win by a significant margin. And if Obama keeps the results closer than some surveys suggest, he could be considered victorious -- unless it appears that Clinton's campaign has succeeded in casting doubt on his credentials to be commander in chief or his ability to win support in the fall from white, working-class voters.
But the Washington Times sees a sliver of hope for Hill:
If she gets the big win, she'll have more evidence for her claim that Sen. Barack Obama is unable to deliver in major swing states and, her team says, it will raise serious questions about his electability.
But Slate's Jeff Greenfield thinks that Clinton's best shot at the nomination -- a brokered convention -- is simply not going to happen.
Yet the fact is, Obama has yet to win any major state likely to go blue in November -- he does his best in red states. Conservatives have been crossing over to vote for Obama for a couple different reasons. Some actually like the guy. Others just want to do anything, vote for anyone, to stop Clinton from getting anywhere near the Oval Office again. Then there's Andrew Sullivan:
At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.
As a Gen Xer who's had quite enough of the Baby Boomers, I'd dearly love Sullivan to be right. But I fail to see how a candidate who surrounds himself with people who harbor dated '60s resentments against America, will put those struggles to rest. If nothing else, President Obama would give the Republicans endless ammunition to replay the worst of Sixties as a wedge issue.
And Obama has already ducked out of a scheduled debate in North Carolina. Why? It's all in the expectations. If he stops treating Clinton like a real candidate, maybe she'll stop acting like one.
Good luck with that, Barack.
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