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Pennsylvania prediction: Clinton will win the battle but lose the war

By Griffin · April 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Hillary Clinton may win Pennsylvania by double digits– as her campaign has been hoping– but as this article from CQ Politics points out, it won’t matter:

And a CQ Politics analysis of the political circumstances in Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, detailed below, projects an edge to Clinton — but by just 53 district-level delegates to 50 for Obama under the Democratic Party’s proportional distribution rules.

These numbers suggest that Clinton, even with a victory in Pennsylvania, would make only a small incremental gain against Obama’s overall lead in the delegate race.

Of the state’s remaining 84 slots, only 55 pledged delegates will be distributed based on the statewide popular vote, with the state’s remaining 29 seats going to unpledged “superdelegates.”

The 103 district-level delegates are not distributed evenly. Democratic-leaning congressional districts are awarded more delegates than Republican-leaning districts. The state’s 2nd District, a Democratic bastion centered in Philadelphia, has nine district delegates to divvy up among Clinton and Obama. The heavily Republican 9th District, in the south-central part of the state, has just three.

In other words, no matter how badly Clinton trounces Obama in the rural middle of the state– and it could be by considerable margins in some parts– his stronger support in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will count for more and erase most of the delegate gains she picks up around the state.  CQ Politics’ analysis has Clinton winning the popular vote by double digits and only picking up three delegates across the entire state.  Regardless of what the popular vote will be, if she doesn’t pick up at least 20 delegates in Pennsylvania– something she failed to do in Ohio and Texas– it’s a massive loss for her campaign.

The simple math is that Clinton is currently 160 delegates behind Obama, with 570 delegates up for grabs.  If, on Wednesday morning, she is 140 delegates behind with only 412 delegates left for both candidates to win, the race is over (even more over than it is already; definitely way more over than it was back in February).  In that post-Pennsylvania scenario, she would need to win more than 65% of the remaining delegates, which would require 70% to 80% of the popular vote in most states with no losses anywhere.  Which part of North Carolina– where polls show Clinton to currently be down by 25 points– is Clinton going to win by 70% of the vote?

But beyond the numbers, there’s also the narrative.  Obama’s campaign– or common sense– has already won the expectations game, with the conventional wisdom being that Clinton needs a win of ten points or greater to truly claim victory.  Part of the sting of the Ohio and Texas losses was mismanaged expectations; doing too much highlighting of the few polls that showed Obama closing fast or winning.  The pre-primary polls look similar in Pennsylvania as they did in Ohio, but no one is going to call Clinton “The Comeback Kid” if she wins tomorrow.

So here’s the prediction: The late undecideds will break for Clinton as they did in Ohio, newly registered voters will break for Obama.  Philadelphia will go heavily for Obama, they’ll play Pittsburgh to a statistical tie, and Clinton will win everywhere else but not by the landslide margins she needs.  I’ll stick with my original prediction and say that Clinton will win, and it won’t be close.  But it won’t be big enough for her to make any appreciable gain in delegates.  I’ll say Clinton by 8.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats · Hillary Clinton

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