April 23, 2008


A Primary with No End (AMY SULLIVAN, 4/23/08, TIME)

If an Obama collapse of the sort Clinton needs to gain the nomination was ever going to happen, it was in that month and a half between Ohio and Pennsylvania. Yet despite increased criticism and scrutiny, Obama has expanded his lead over Clinton in national polls. He cut her margin in Pennsylvania down to 10 points, and he actually improved his performance from Ohio in the demographic groups he needed to demonstrate he could win: voters with no college education or those over 65, white men, those making less than $50,000, and self-described conservatives.

Even so, the real winner of the Democratic race in Pennsylvania is John McCain. The most significant number coming out of Tuesday night wasn't Clinton's 10 point margin of victory, but 43. That's the percentage of Clinton voters who say they would stay home or vote for McCain if Obama is the party's nominee in November. It is no longer just the Chicken Littles within the party who openly worry about an outcome that leaves large blocks of women or African-Americans frustrated and alienated.

The extended race is also clearly getting to Obama, who is noticeably fatigued on the stump and lacks the energy that drew in so many new voters earlier in the primary season. The largely positive media coverage he previously enjoyed has been replaced by a tenser relationship. The candidate now limits his availability to the political press corps, and recently snapped at a reporter who tried to ask a question while he was eating breakfast at a Pennsylvania diner.

At the same time, Tuesday night's results may require Clinton to alter her case against Obama in ways that could do real damage if he becomes the nominee. His ability to improve his standing among key constituencies while withstanding intense scrutiny makes it more difficult for her to argue that he could not win in November. (Clinton admitted as much in their 21st debate, answering "yes, yes, yes" when asked if Obama could beat McCain.) That means she'll have to instead argue that he should not be president. And that's music to Republican ears.

Pa. win reaffirms Clinton campaign (S.A. Miller, April 23, 2008, Washington Times)

Mrs. Clinton built her nearly 10-point victory on the strength of blue-collar workers, gun owners, women, seniors and a surprisingly large number of voters who said race played a role in their choice, exit polls showed.

Her campaign immediately sought to seize new momentum going into the last nine contests before Democrats choose their nominee in Denver this summer with neither candidate able to win the required number of delegates. Despite the convincing win, Mrs. Clinton did not score significant gains in delegates, leaving Mr. Obama with more than a 100-delegate lead.

But Mr. Obama's loss in the last big-state primary of the season gave Clinton supporters a rallying point for the final stretch of primaries.

Mrs. Clinton, who led 55 percent to 45 percent with most precincts reporting, said the "tide is turning" in the race.
While the natural temptation for the press is to write the Obama Can't Seal Deal story, few are mentioning either the thoroughly historical nature of this phenomenon or the possibility that buyers remorse is likely to be particularly strong because Senator Obama is such a cipher. Both the general and the particular conspire against him.

Why Obama can't close deal (RON FOURNIER, Associated Press)

Here are five reasons why Clinton is still alive. Five ways he'd be vulnerable in November. [...]

WORKING-CLASS VOTERS: Obama can't win the presidency unless he starts connecting better with blue-collar voters.

The New York senator easily won among Pennsylvania voters without college degrees and those from families earning less than $50,000 a year. Gun owners, rural voters and churchgoing Democrats also backed Clinton.

These are the folks who Obama said "cling to" guns and God, an inelegant attempt to explain to San Francisco liberals how GOP operatives exploit Democratic voters in anxious economic times. He bowled (poorly) and drank beer in a feeble attempt to show a blue-collar touch.

If Obama wins the nomination, he risks losing those voters to Republican John McCain. While 68 percent of Obama voters in Pennsylvania said they would vote for Clinton should she run against McCain, just 53 percent of Clinton voters said they would vote for Obama.

The Upshot of Pennsylvania (Noam Scheiber, 4/23/08, TNR: The Stump)
Hillary unquestionably met or exceeded expectations tonight, and she'll get a deserved boost in the media and fundraising as a result. (According to the Clinton campaign, they'd already raised $2.5 million between the time the networks called the state and 11:30 pm.) This probably makes her a favorite to win Indiana (I thought she was a slight favorite even before tonight)--and, therefore, makes it pretty likely that she'll be in the race until the voting ends in early June.

Obama can't shake off Clinton (ROGER SIMON, 4/22/08, Politico)
While Clinton did not actually call Obama a wimp in Pennsylvania, she did say he was “elitist and out of touch” and “demeaning.” She can also drink him under the table. (And he stinks at bowling.)

Clinton continues to do well in big states, having previously won primaries in California, Massachusetts and Ohio.

The good news for Obama, however, is that in the contest that actually counts — who wins the most pledged delegates to the Democratic Convention -— his lead appears to be unassailable.

In other words, he probably “closed the deal” when, after Super Tuesday, he won 10 contests in a row, running up his pledged delegate lead while Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, was still trying to figure out what was happening. (Clinton, who fired Penn, still owes him $4.5 million. I could have come up with a losing strategy for half that.)

True, Obama missed an opportunity Tuesday night, one of his two “silver bullets.” Had he actually beaten Clinton in Pennsylvania, she almost certainly would have had to withdraw from the race.

But Obama has another opportunity in two weeks: If he beats her in North Carolina and Indiana on May 6, some members of her own campaign say she might have to withdraw.

Indiana appears to be a toss-up, which is why Obama and Clinton both headed there from Pennsylvania. North Carolina looks like a safe state for Obama, though some think Clinton could make up some ground if she snagged the endorsement of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. But enough ground to change things? I doubt it. (The John Edwards wing of the Democratic Party is pretty much limited to John Edwards these days.)

Failing a double win on May 6, Obama might have to slog on all the way to June and the last primaries and even, conceivably, to the Democratic National Convention in August.

Clinton Win in Pa. Keeps Her Quest Alive (RUSSELL BERMAN, April 23, 2008, NY Sun)
The win for Mrs. Clinton, which was widely expected after several polls showed her leading, may quiet calls for her immediate exit from the Democratic race, but it will not likely make her path to the nomination much easier.

The result is unlikely to significantly erode Mr. Obama's delegate lead, and Mrs. Clinton's attempts to raise doubts about the Illinois senator's electability have thus far drawn few undecided superdelegates to her corner.

The New York senator is hoping that her Pennsylvania win will boost her debt-ridden campaign and give her more time to make her case to the roughly 300 undecided superdelegates who will, in large measure, decide the Democratic nomination. Amid reports that Mr. Obama might announce several superdelegate endorsements after yesterday's vote to blunt any momentum for Mrs. Clinton, a senior Democrat in the Clinton camp told The New York Sun yesterday she would soon roll out her own group of new superdelegates, including several from Pennsylvania.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, has urged superdelegates to publicly announce their decisions soon to prevent the primary fight from carrying into the party's nominating convention late this summer.

With Mr. Obama expected to retain his advantage in pledged delegates through the final nine contests, Mrs. Clinton will have to persuade superdelegates to overturn that edge and risk alienating a substantial portion of the Democratic electorate, and particularly African-Americans, who may question the legitimacy of her nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2008 5:36 AM
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