About Pennsylvania

With all eyes turning towards Pennsylvania, I asked my good buddy, and curling enthusiast, Fester, for his thoughts.

Outlook, not good, but not fatal.

Following the loss in Ohio, Mike had said that as goes Ohio, so does Pennsylvania, the reasoning being that the two are very similar in demographic make up.  Fester’s breakdown of PA would seem to agree with this, along with other delegate math calculations that seem to predict a handy win for Senator Clinton.

Of course the Clinton camp knows this and has taken on the post hoc ergo propter hoc argument that no Democrat that loses the Pennsylvania primary moves on to win the nomination.  Further, the Obama camp sees this as well and has done something that is a little uncharacteristic for them in at least dangling their feet in the game of lowering expectations game.

This is not to say that team Obama is running around saying they expect to lose Pennsylvania, but instead they are attempting to refocus people on the fact that there are still ten other states left to vote after Pennsylvania has come and gone.

Ironically, the Clinton camp is attempting to make hay out of this, accusing the Obama campaign for trying to say some states don’t count which has been the Clinton game plan all along; only the states that she has won are the states that are really important in deciding who should be the Democratic nominee.  Very convenient.

But staying on topic, with Pennsylvania being billed as the last big state, and yet another state that should, for the moment, be the decider of which Democratic candidate moves on to the general, Obama is not looking as competatitve as one would hope.

Even with six weeks to campaign, not many people are suspecting that Obama will be able to do much better than narrow Clinton’s net delegate gain down to ten.  According to Fester, Obama has virtually no hope of winning the popular vote there, and only a slightly better chance at winning the delegate race if the precincts break down in his favor.

So a stunning upset that knocks Hillary out of the race is unlikely to happen.

At this point, one could go into an extended discussion of the delegate math, but I think there’s a different track to consider.

We all know that Hillary has to blow out Obama in every state to stay competitive; failing to do so in any state, including states such as Indiana and North Carolina which are favored to go to Obama, would result in Hillary now having to pick up on order of 70-80% of the vote in remaining states to stay competitive in pledged delegates.  Granted, if she pulls off a big enough string of decisive wins, she can pull a momentum argument coming down to the wire.

But with Pennsylvania, the important thing for Obama to do is to not let Hillary run away with more than 15-20 net delegates.  In order to stay on track, and keep the rest of the states down to a 60-40 split to stay viable, she needs close to a 70-30 split in Pennsylvania with a net delegate gain in excess of 45.  Getting even close to that, however, could drastically shake up the landscape of the remaining races.

So the big goal for Obama over the next six weeks is to do whatever he can to keep Pennsylvania close, and shore up support elsewhere.  The key is going to be engineering major upsets in Indiana and North Carolina which will allow him to run into the next final stretch of states with the wind at his back.

But pledged delegates are not going to get this thing done, as any political analyst worth his or her salt will tell you.  We have to really start looking at what the Super Delegates are going to do.  Not bound by a state vote means that demographic breakdowns and delegate calculators aren’t going to help much either.

For this reason, the other thing that needs to be the focus for Obama is making sure he gets closer to the 2025 finish line than Hillary by any means neccessary.

What this speaks to is a threshold that has yet to be defined wherein the Super Delegates start breaking in an attempt to end this race before disaster strikes.  Things that no Democrat wants to see happen right before going into the General Election.  This includes campaigns delivering upon each other fatal blows that can be recycled in the General, a brokered convention that could result in disillusioning huge swaths of voters, and the Florida and Michigan debacles which have yet to come to amicable solutions.

Any of these three instances could spell disaster against John McCain who will continue to enjoy a decided lack of scrutiny whilst the Democratic race is the big show in town, and it is my belief that any combination of the three will get Super Delegates committing to one candidate or another in increasingly rapid fashion as the contest moves on.  This creates an imaginary threshold where one candidate or the other doesn’t have to get to the finish line, but instead just has to get within a certain distance of the threshold for the Super Delegates to push him or her over it.

Put another way, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama neither likely to reach 2025 on pledged delegates alone, whoever is closest will have fewer Super Delegates to woo to get there.  The more potential for this primary to cause irreparable damage, the further from 2025 does that threshold extend.

And so the pledged delegate race remains important not just because it builds a strong argument to win the nomination, but also because it puts one closer to a threshold.

For example, let’s say that Hillary goes on an all out negativity bender where everything we’ve seen from the campaign thus far gets absolutely dwarfed.  Or let’s say Obama is found to be having an illicit love affair with a seventeen-year-old.  Anything, really, that both drops a candidate’s electability to nil while at the same time having the continued effect of vitally damaging the party, is going to have the Super Delegates break en masse for one candidate or another to put an end to this thing as a form of damage control.

But if the race is to continue on as it is right now, what we have is a situation where things are getting worse, but not so bad that the party elders start freaking out.  In this situation, as tensions increase, Super Delegates are likely to trickle into one camp or another based on a variety of degrees.  If we are to be fair and say that they trickle at an evenly split rate for both candidates, whomever is closer to the finish line will obviously benefit.

Fortunately for Obama, that’s not the situation as it stands.  As Bloomberg reports, since voting actually began, Obama has been much more effective at picking up Super Delegate support, and while Hillary had an impressive triple digit lead going into the primary season, that lead is now down to thirty or forty Super Delegates with the momentum in Obama’s favor.

This momentum, too, can be blunted by a Clinton blow out, which would put Obama at risk in both the remaining Super Delegate and pledged delegate hunt.  But if he manages to keep it close in Pennsylvania, he only has two weeks until Indiana and North Carolina, and big wins there could seal this whole thing up for him.

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