PJ Media

Hillary Gets Key Win in Keystone State

Wednesday, April 23, 01:30 am PDT

From the Pennsylvania Department of State Elections Information site: Hillary Clinton 54%, Barack Obama 46%.

9:48 pm PDT

I had some radio shows to do for a while there, including Jim Bohannon’s national show out of Washington.

So, summing up, after some distracting exit polls this afternoon, we’re where we were this morning.

Hillary Clinton won the big state that is tailor made for her appeal. Barack Obama’s momentum there was stalled out by “Bittergate,” and a poor debate performance last week.

Clinton ends up winning by about 10 points. Not the scarily close win that might have hastened party elders off the fence sooner rather than later to bring a finish to her candidacy. But not the blowout she needed to alter the trajectory of the race.

Obama seems likely to make up her gains in the popular vote, which has no official bearing on the nomination, in two weeks in the last big state of the race, North Carolina. Clinton’s success today in Pennsylvania yielded her a net gain of 16 delegates, dropping Obama’s edge in delegates won in the primary and caucus contests to about 150.

Clinton’s victory today in this second oldest of the big states (after Florida) was built largely upon her appeal to older voters, women, and rural voters. She swept the small rural counties — where folks may be a little bit “bitter” about Obama’s private San Francisco fundraiser comments revealed in the Huffington Post — by huge margins. Obama won narrowly among men, but lost big among women, who made up nearly 60% of the primary electorate. He won big among younger voters, but lost big among older voters. 70% of the voters were over 45.

The race moves on to Guam, on May 3rd, and more consequentially to North Carolina and Indiana on May 6th. Obama should take North Carolina and Guam, with Indiana, which should be natural Hillary turf, starting out as something of a toss-up.

On May 13th, West Virginia votes, and Hillary is a heavy favorite there.

On May 20th, it’s Oregon and Kentucky, the latter of which is, like West Virginia, not unlike the middle of Pennsylvania where Hillary did very well. Oregon looks like Obama territory.

On June 1st, Puerto Rico votes, and Hillary is favored there.

On June 3rd, the primaries end in Montana and South Dakota, where Obama should finish on an up note. Assuming that the race goes that far.

6:13 pm PDT — Final Exits

With networks beginning to call the Pennsylvania primary, as expected, for Hillary Clinton, the final exit poll numbers are coming out at Clinton 53%, Obama 47%.

The key dividing line, as I noted early this morning, is generational.

Obama has a big lead among voters under 45.

But Pennsylvania is second only to Florida as the oldest major state in America. And 70% of the voters are over 45.

5:38 pm PDT — Why Too Close To Call Matters

Here is why the media exit poll call of “too close to call” matters.

Not because Hillary Clinton will come in second in Pennsylvania behind Barack Obama. I still don’t expect that. But because she is clearly not getting the big win she needs to keep a sense of momentum moving forward, coming out of what is demographically her best big state — very much older, primary closed to independents, less educated, more blue collar, fewer minorities, etc. — still trailing the frontrunner by a large margin of earned delegates.

I spoke with a few big Clinton fundraisers today. Their networks are tapped out.

The former first lady is now heavily reliant on the Internet for fundraising. And that is Obama Land.

She can raise money there still. But she needs hope. Or a sense of grievance. Or a sense of momentum.

Meanwhile, Obama has over $40 million in cash, with no debt. She has several million dollars on hand, and over $10 million in debt. Not counting the $5 million she and former President Clinton loaned to her campaign to be competitive in the Super Tuesday contests of February, in which she was originally going to wrap up the nomination.

Half of her debt is to her former chief strategist and pollster, Mark Penn. Who she dismissed after it emerged he was lobbying for a Latin American trade deal she says she’s against.

The other half of her debt is to vendors around the country. Who are now dunning her for their money.

Obama keeps spending, forcing her to try to keep up with his financial juggernaut. I’m told that she is spending well over 100% of what she had been raising recently.

Unless she keeps her mojo going with a big win in Pennsylvania, she can’t keep raising at the same rate she’s been raising. And that rate is still less than her burn rate. Which is entirely aside from her massive, and growing debt.
5:05 pm PDT — Pennsylvania “Too Close To Call”

The polls have just closed and the networks say, based on exit polls, “It’s too close to call.”

As I said a few hours ago … Stay tuned.

Hillary Clinton needs a big win over Barack Obama.

3:08 pm PDT — Exit Poll Drama

There is something of a drama taking place with the Pennsylvania primary exit polls.

In the first wave of exit polls, the Drudge Report reports that Hillary Clinton is narrowly ahead of Barack Obama.

In the second wave of exit polls, it appears that Barack Obama is narrowly ahead of Hillary Clinton.

But there are questions about sampling. Are Obama strongholds in Eastern Pennsylvania oversampled?

Stay tuned.

2:53 pm PDT — The Army of the Undecided

Correspondent Eric Scheie reports: Dick Polman is one of the best political analysts in the business, and he points to the Undecideds as a major factor favoring Hillary.

The army of the undecideds. The final round of polls report that roughly 10 percent of the Pennsylvania voters had not yet decided between Clinton and Barack Obama. That’s a sizeable number of people; if, as widely expected, this primary draws a record two million voters (or 50 percent of the Democratic registration), this means that 200,000 Democrats haven’t made up their minds.

And if the past is prologue, this translates into a sizeable advantage for Clinton – one that could arguably add several percentage points to a Clinton victory.

Notwithstanding Obama’s successes in 2008, the inescapable fact is that he has been a poor closer. In most of the primaries thus far, he has been spurned by those voters who withheld their choice until the eleventh hour. The late undecideds have broken for Clinton in almost every contest, opting to go with the known quantity instead of taking a leap with the new guy.

For a lot of reasons (as well as experience in the other states), Polman thinks the undecideds inherently favor what they know — especially in PA:

It’s hard to imagine that undecided Pennsylvanians will break for Obama today; the state’s political culture has long preferred familiar brands to the flavor of the month. And the latest surveys indicate that the undecideds are heavily concentrated on Hillary-friendly turf.

12:38 pm PDT — A Different Result in the ’90s with New Tech?

It’s becoming a very open question whether or not Bill Clinton would have won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, much less the presidency, had information technology been so widespread then as it is now and had transcripts, audio, and video been so accessible as a result.

Yesterday, Clinton said, that, contrary to what we’ve concluded, he did not play the race card on Barack Obama following his big win in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson (who won lightly attended caucuses in the ’80s), it was actually Obama’s campaign who played the race card on him.

INTERVIEWER (RE: Jackson comment): “Do you think that was a mistake, and would you do that again?”

CLINTON: “No. I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it along.

But today in Pittsburgh, Clinton denied that he said what you just read above, and attacked the reporter who asked him about it.

NBC/NJ: “Sir, what did you mean yesterday when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?”

CLINTON: “When did I say that, and to whom did I say that?”

NBC/NJ: “On WHYY radio yesterday.”

CLINTON: “No, no, no. That’s not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games, and I’m not going to play your games today. This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day.”

12:15 pm PDT — A New Oil Record

While the political class and associated chatterers go on about the Pennsylvania primary, which probably will not affect the ultimate outcome of the Democratic presidential nomination, something that matters tremendously to most Americans just got a lot worse today.

The price of crude oil spiked to another record of nearly $120 per barrel today.

Oil is up $10 per barrel since the beginning of last week. And over $2 per barrel since yesterday.

The oil price is killing airlines and driving gasoline to $4 a gallon. Actually, I’ve been paying $4 a gallon since before the “Bittergate” controversy consumed media bandwidth.

The upward spike is coming in the wake of guerilla attacks in Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer, a seaborne pirate attack, the incredible weakness of the dollar against the euro, and a huge risk premium built into the price by ongoing multiple Middle Eastern crises.

Certainly a great deal for presidential candidates in both parties to discuss.

Not that they are.

10:21 am PDT — Where They Are Today, and Tonight

One of the key indicators about a primary day is where the candidates are on primary night.
Hillary Clinton is in Philadelphia today. And tonight. Her victory party will be at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Philadelphia.

Barack Obama campaigns in Pittsburgh this morning and Philadelphia this afternoon.

But tonight, he is in Evansville, Indiana, at Roberts Municipal Stadium. Indiana votes on on May 6th, along with North Carolina.

Obama has a big lead in the Tarheel State. But the Hoosier State is close. While early polls showed a Clinton lead, recent polls show Obama with only a slight lead there.

So the freshman Illiniois senator aims to make a big show in Indiana tonight, with the national media spotlight on him. Joining the Democratic frontrunner tonight is roots rock superstar John Mellencamp, who will play a mini-concert for the assembled Obama supporters.

Sure to be on the Mellencamp play list? His old hit, “Small Town.”

Mellencamp, not incidentally, is a native of Indiana.

Not to be left out of the spotlight is presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. He continues his Forgotten America tour today, which he kicked off yesterday in Selma, Alabama, site of the one of the most infamous police beatings of civil rights protesters in the 1960s, with a speech in Youngstown, Ohio. There the Vietnam War hero seeks to show that he relates to the problems of those in the former Steel Town USA.

08:56 am PDT — Game Day: Pennsylvania

Finally, it’s the Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary. According to the media, an enormous event. But maybe not. One thing it is is another long day’s journey into night, as Pennsylvania officials expect a slow count to the final result. In part because they have not had a hotly contested presidential primary in over 20 years. And in part because they have several hundred thousand new voters, and switcher voters (independent or Republican) to contend with.

It is certainly Hillary Clinton’s last best chance to get back into a race in which — as I look at it — it is next to impossible for her to finish first at the end of the primaries and caucuses on June 3rd. Clinton, who trails frontrunner Barack Obama by roughly 150 earned delegates, at least three-quarters of a million popular votes (and many more when you include the caucuses, as you should) and literally tens of millions of dollars in fundraising (mostly not from billionaires, but from small donors), is looking for a big psychological victory today.

What constitutes big? Well, it depends on your perspective. At the beginning of March, Clinton led Obama in Pennsylvania by 20 to 25 points. Today, she leads by anywhere from a few points to 10 points. But the undecided voters — at least those reached by pollsters, young voters are increasingly reachable only by mobile phones, which aren’t a factor with most polling outfits — seem to fit the profile of those who might be offended by Bittergate. Older, rural, more socially conservative.

The Clinton campaign furiously objected to a Drudge report yesterday that its internal polling on Sunday night showed her with an 11-point lead. The campaign claimed that it didn’t poll on Sunday night. Which, since most every serious campaign in a serious race polls on a Sunday night, was, let’s say, somewhat suspicious.

The truth is that the Clintons don’t know what’s going to happen today. They expect to win — as they should, handily, given the state’s demographics (more on that in a moment) — but will take any margin of victory at this point.

Six weeks ago, they predicted a huge victory in Pennsylvania. Which the former first lady needs to begin to cut appreciably into Obama’s leads in earned delegates and the overall vote. Now they will spin whatever they get.

Obama was probably never going to win Pennsylvania, but he was closing until “Bittergate” and the media firestorm inadvertently sparked by the report of his arguably demeaning comments about small town Americans —reported by his supporters at Huffington Post— that he made at a private, off-the-record fundraiser in San Francisco. That ended his upward movement in Pennsylvania polls.

Obama has had two major media firestorms to contend with since the last voting, six weeks ago in Mississippi, where he won in a landslide. Besides Bittergate, there was the Wright Stuff, the rather more consequential remarks made by his now famous former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Looking at the national polls, Obama has confounded his harshest critics’ deepest hopes by weathering both crises. He leads handily in today’s Rasmussen poll, 49% to 41%. And he leads by more in other recent polls, where he generally runs better than among the Rasmussen robots.

Which does not mean that these issues are not likely to come back round in a general election.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is, as it has always been, Clinton’s to lose. Her husband the former president is popular there, and has campaigned incessantly in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania primary is closed to the independents who have buoyed Obama to many big victories around the country. Pennsylvania is a traditionally machine politics state, and the biggest machine is controlled by popular Governor Ed Rendell, Hillary’s biggest backer. It is a state with a lower than average minority population for a big state. It is a state with fewer college graduates than other big states. And it is the second oldest of the major states in America, trailing only Florida in its proportion of senior citizens following the out-migration of many young people.

Age, incidentally, is the biggest divider in the Democratic presidential race. As I look at the contests to date, younger voters are usually for Obama. Older voters are usually for Clinton. It’s usually a 2 to 1 margin for Obama for voters up to 30, and 2 to 1 for Clinton for voters over 65.

So how much is enough for Hillary today to retain relevance in the race? Today, the cable pundits are hedging, increasingly setting the bar low. Arbitrarily so, it seems to me. A continuing contest means continuing conflict, continuing chatter, continuing what they do best.

The number is 5 points, or 7 points, or 9 points, or 10 points, or 12 points.

Or something.

A month ago, it seemed she needed to win by 15 to 20 points. But that is probably not going to happen. So the bar has been lowered to… whatever.

What is clear is that Clinton will continue on unless she actually loses to Obama today. Which the Bittergate controversy virtually guarantees will not happen. If she loses by only a handful of points, the superdelegates who — after all, have spurned her supposedly inevitable candidacy all last year to remain neutral — will probably jump on the Obama bandwagon.

In reality, looking at most of the next contests, she needs to win really big to alter the overall dynamic.

But that is unlikely to happen. So she will likely soldier on, hoping for yet another crisis that might at last wreck Obama’s candidacy.

At least until the voting two weeks from now, in North Carolina and Indiana.