Sunday, March 09, 2008

obama, clinton, pennsylvania

The newspapers, which until recently left Clinton for dead, have announced her latest comeback, and (as predicted here) gotten tougher about Obama and his limitations. Many believe that she is now an equally or more likely nominee. Maybe, but let's consider a few facts:

1. Obama has a 100-150 delegate lead which will probably grow with the Mississippi primary later this week. There are only 300-400 undecided superdelegates together with remaining primaries which will likely split on a close to 50-50 basis. To make up even a 100 delegate disadvantage, Clinton would have to win the remaining superdelegates by about a 2:1 margin, or convince previously decided delegates to switch. Neither appears especially likely.

2. Most of the "secondary" factors--polling results, fundraising capacity, and the personal attractiveness of the candidates--actually favor Obama. Thus, the situation is different from (say) the 1976 Republican contest, where Ford clung to a slight delegate lead but Reagan commanded more enthusiasm and won most of the later primaries. In the caucus states, which are the best indicator of commitment and enthusiasm, Obama actually does better.

3. It is very common for a frontrunner to stumble in later primaries as voters suffer a degree of buyer's remorse and, perhaps, a subconscious desire to prolong the contest. Thus, Reagan lost several late primaries to George H.W. Bush in 1980, Carter to Kennedy, and so forth. Both of them were nominated.

There is a very good piece by Chris Satullo in today's Inquirer about Pennsylvania and its differences from other states. Satullo concludes that many of these favor Clinton. I am somewhat less sure. While portions of the State (notably the western half) resemble Ohio, there are more suburban yuppies together with a larger and more concentrated Black vote, notably here in Philadelphia, which will unquestionably break heavily in Obama's direction. Moreover, people will have a longer time to get to know the candidates, which usually helps Obama more than Clinton, whom they already know. I would rate it a tossup: although as the comedian said, it's not my problem.


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