3.06.2008

Looking ahead at the next batch of states

March 4th having brought no resolution whatsoever to the Democratic race, the race is pressing on to the upcoming contests -- Wyoming this Saturday, Mississippi on Tuesday and then a six week break until Pennsylvania on April 22nd. The Keystone state is the only state scheduled to vote in April, but there is then a bunch of elections in May, starting with "Mini-mini-Super Tuesday" on the 6th (Indiana and North Carolina).

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is also busy recovering from weeks of internal strife and tensions between top aides, which have undermined the efficiency of what was supposed to be a ruthless and unstoppable machine. Today, the Washington Post published a very well sourced must-read account of the intra-campaign fights that goes way back to the beginning of the year and even provides some new information (for example the fact that Bill Clinton decided by himself to go and blanket South Carolina in the days leading up to that primary, and that Hillary's entourage did not dare tell him to pull back because they had never been his entourage).

The article's main narrative predictably centers on Mark Penn and the number of times his innumerable enemies (Ickles, Patti Doyle, the "White Boys") have tried to get him fired or at least have tried to minimize his influence; in recent weeks, the different camps have been dueling to blame each other for the campaign's difficulties -- with expletive-filled arguments. The article also provides some background to the most puzzling question of this primary season: Why did Clinton entirely give up on Super Tuesday's caucuses, allowing Obama to run up huge margins there? It appears that some aides had warned against it, but that others -- including Sen. Clinton -- were too "burned" by Iowa to want to try that again.

There would have been infinitely more of this kind of stories had Clinton been eliminated on Tuesday. But right now, there isn't much time to be retrospective, as both campaigns are focusing on the elections of the next few days. Wyoming only awards 12 delegates, but keep in mind that it is in small states like this that Clinton fell so far behind in February. In Idaho, for example, the delegate split was a dramatic 15 to 3, a bigger margin than Clinton obtained in some of her strongest states like New Jersey. Accordingly, both Obama and Clinton are running radio ads in Wyoming -- a state that is certainly not used to hearing ads for Democratic presidential candidates. Bill Clinton is campaigning in Wyoming today, and will then travel to Mississippi, and Hillary might be in Wyoming tomorrow as well.

The big prize, of course, is Pennsylvania. And just as Clinton was climbing back in North Carolina yesterday, Rasmussen shows her to have momentum in the Keystone state:

  • Clinton is now leading 52% to 37%, a significant improvement from last week's 4% lead.
  • A 15% victory would undeniably help Clinton catch up some of Obama's delegate lead.
There are a number of factors that are going to make Pennsylvania very difficult for Obama. For one, it is a closed primary -- the first major closed primary we had have in quite a while -- which means that only registered Democrats will be allowed to take part in the vote. Obama has derived much help from independents and Republicans crossing over and favoring him, and Clinton has routinely done better among just registered Democrats, so this could help her not only win but also get a bigger margin of victory -- which is obviously essential to her chances, just as it was on March 4th.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post (once again!) takes a look at Pennsylvania's demographics and concludes that Clinton should be viewed as favored to win: The demographics are even more favorable to her than they were in Ohio: The electorate will be a bit older, and college educated voters will make a smaller share of the electorate. If Clinton holds to her electoral coalition -- which she has done in every contest except in Wisconsin (and, to a lesser extent, in the Potomac) -- the race should be prolonged beyond April 22nd.

And that gets us to Florida and Michigan. There is a renewed push for a solution in those states, and while the Clinton campaign is pushing that the delegates determined in January be seated, that seems like an unlikely scenario and the campaign must know that. They need Florida and Michigan delegates to catch up with Obama, and that makes it likely that they would endorse a re-do vote. Naturally, that carries a big risk: If Obama wins either of those states, it could give him a psychological boost that Clinton would have a hard time recovering from. But the battle is still one of delegates, and Clinton has to find reservoirs to tap into.

The Florida and Michigan Governors signed a common statement yesterday, urging the DNC to count the January contests and seat the delegates, though FL Gov. Crist was open last week to the possibility of financing another primary. Keep in mind that financing is a huge issue here: A re-do can't just be easily organized. Holding a second round of primaries would cost about $10 million in each state, and the DNC has said that it is not willing to pay the bill. So unless Gov. Granholm and Gov. Crist are willing to find that money in their state's budget, the do-over plans would be put on hold. Could the Clinton campaign offer to pay for part of it (two or three emails to her supporters could probably raise that much money).

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6 Comments:

  • There is a report on the New Republic website citing an (unnamed) member of the DNC Rules Committee as saying that the Michigan Democratic Party has decided on an do-over caucus.

    By OpenID sjberke, At 06 March, 2008 15:53  

  • Obama will find it hard in PA because OH has shown that there is some latent racism amongst the population. Racism isn't just a southern thing. If people dispute this why is it that in Ohio men voted for Clinton which has no happened in any of the other states - OH is the first major mid western state to have voted (MI - Obama was not on the ballot, WI - unknown why it voted the way it did)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 March, 2008 18:13  

  • Obama will lose in Pa not because of racism, but because blue staters don't fall for that con-man preacher routine he's been selling. That stuff might fool the rubes, but most street smart people see right through it. I'm not surprised the "race card" gets played yet again by Obamabots. Pretty pathetic. I bet it's Bill Clinton's fault next huh?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 March, 2008 19:11  

  • Obama will lose in Pa not because of racism,
    -----------------------------------

    BS. I live here. And Ed Rendell is 100% correct.

    Obama will loose here for the same reason he lost in OH.

    To quote the PA Governor himself. "Obama cant win here because the whites will NOT vote for a Black Man".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 March, 2008 19:24  

  • Anonymous 19:11 - just read the comments from the PA Governor who supports Clinton. Just look at the CNN exit polls for OH. It is known that the mid west has latent racism. I am not blaming them - just offering it as a reason for the unique turnaround Clinton has had with whiter men - normally there is a gender gap. Not this time. It can`t surely be all about blue collar issues. Explain that to blue collar voters in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    Hillary is happy to use feminist icons to blame sexism for her issues. So be consistent.
    At least Obama can run a good campaign, spend money wisely and not go broke. She was the sure fire winner last year - even if she finally wins the nomination, she has done badly because she should have sewn it up months ago.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 March, 2008 20:18  

  • Taniel,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful work you do. I've enjoyed reading your blog for several months. I find your insight to be much better than anything I see on TV. You're doing a great job!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 March, 2008 21:36  

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