Monday, April 21, 2008

Hoosier Hysteria

The Pennsylvania primary is tomorrow and the press is in a tizzy. There is all kinds of silly speculation about what will happen tomorrow night and what it means for the "BIG PICTURE". The truth, of course, is that they already know what will happen, but are continuing to try and show that they have real influence with the voters. There are those that are still continuing to harp on Obama's "bitter" comment, even though the polls have shown that it had little effect. Today I heard one commentator saying that the comment had an effect because Clinton is leading by double digits in the so called T section of Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Everyone and I mean everyone who has looked at the returns of any primary knew going in that Obama was going to struggle in these areas of the state and to now try and pin his performance there on his comment is just about the most ridiculous statement that someone who is supposed to know something about this race can make.

The Obama plan is simple, win Philly and the surrounding suburbs, try to keep it close in the Pittsburgh area and keep the rest of the state within 20 points. That was the strategy going in and it remains the strategy. Clinton entered this race 6 weeks ago with a lead approaching 25 points in some polls and is now down to a single digit lead according to the most recent polling. The undecideds will ultimately break in her favor and that will give her a higher margin of victory than the 5 points that some polls are currently showing. My prediction for tomorrow is a Clinton 54-46 victory. She could get to a 10 point margin depending upon turnout of her voting base.

The headlines on Wednesday will trumpet another "comeback" by Senator Clinton and once again question Obama's ability to "close out" the race. They will point to the late breakers and say things like, "maybe voters are taking a second look at Obama and they have some questions", And "Obama has once again failed to put an end to the Clinton campaign". The problem with this type of analysis is that it once again looks at the primary in a vacum. There are simply states that lean toward the individual candidates. Pennsylvania, like Ohio, is tailor made for Clinton. The only thing that gives Obama a chance to keep the state relatively close is the fact that Philly is a major urban center. The map tomorrow will look a lot like Missouri, where Clinton won the majority of the districts, but Obama won the popular vote by carrying the urban centers. Missouri is more sparsely populated than Pennsylvania, so Obama cannot count on Philly to carry the state, but the turnout there will likely determining whether he is an 8 point loser or a 12 point loser.

The last real remaining battle ground state is Indiana, which will hold it's primary in two weeks. Hillary should once again have an advantage, but Obama is running very well there. It is probably the last time that either candidate will be in a position to win a state that clearly leans toward the other candidate. That race is the first real chance for Obama to "close out" the race. Not New Hampshire, not super Tuesday, not Texas, not Ohio and not Pennsylvania. Those opportunities to end the nominating process were created by the press. No one who really understood the makeup of those states honestly could have expected Obama to beat Clinton in the popular vote. Indiana is different, though. It is the first and perhaps last opportunity to bring this process to a end before June. If Obama were to win there (even though he will lose by huge margins in West Virginia and Kentucky), I think you would start to see a major move by super delegates in his direction. Given the current breakdown of the delegates, he would need approximately 100 super delegates to announce for him in order to secure the nomination at the end of the primary season.

Watch Indiana. It may turn out to be the actual turning point of the primary season.

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