Life After Pennsylvania

Forty-eight hours from now, give or take a little, we should have the final results of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Supporters will scream at the top of their lungs, sane minds will break, and pollsters are going to flood the field, and somewhere along the line, voters are actually going to vote for who they believe should be the Democratic nominee.

Libby Spencer describes what seems to be a disparity between what we’re seeing in the polls, and what is being seen on the ground. Polls are showing adverse conditions in the Keystone State for Senator Obama; however, he’s still drawing record crowds and packing auditoriums. Not just in the big city either, as Spencer further elaborates, but Obama is outdrawing Clinton in the rural areas, too.

What’s going on here?

Well, something I’ve learned the hard way is that this close to election day, polls really do become just about worthless. Now, if the race isn’t close, polling will likely reflect that. There will be a convergence of polls that all indicate that the winner will take the race by some respectable margin. But if the race becomes too close, you’re going to see exactly what we have been seeing from the polling in Pennsylvania over the past few days; total chaos.

Some polls show Obama dropping significantly following the debate of a few nights ago, some have him holding solid, whilst others have him gaining a little ground. What’s happening? In general I think this the disagreement between polls and the oscillation from one data point to the next is representing a margin of support that is a little too difficult for polling to accurately detect.

But there you have it, the field is flooded, and we have all this data that really doesn’t seem to mean much of anything. For times like these I like going to Pollster to aggregates all these trends, and at this point they’re putting the race at about six points in Clinton’s favor. While this may give us a more steadfast indicator of public opinion, it still doesn’t really speak to the phenomenon that Libby discusses.

There are, I think, two different things at work here. For one, I think Obama’s support is generally underpolled, and I’ve mentioned this earlier. When we look at the fact that PA saw a record number of newly registered voters, and the fact that Obama appeals much more to the young voters, when you put the two together you see a the potential for a lot of voters that aren’t going to make it through the “likely voter” filters that are used to generate what is reported as likely outcomes.

Thus, there is a very real possibility that Obama could be enjoying a significant amount of support that is getting under-represented in polling.

The other aspect to this to think about is that we have to look at the energy gaps between the demographics supporting each candidate. Generally, Obama supporters are much more energetic than Hillary supporters, and so it is not beyond the realm of possibility for Obama to draw bigger crowds but for Clinton to have more supporters.

So really PA is kind of up in the air. Polls haven’t coalesced significantly to the point where I can say that Hillary is going to win by a wide margin, but it is looking as though she is going to win, probably in the five to ten point range.

What does that mean for everything beyond? Well, it doesn’t change the landscape much, and the schedule immediately following Pennsylvania is more in Obama’s favor than Hillary’s. He’s looking to take North Carolina by an impressive margin by most polling, while Indiana is thus far a dead heat (or not depending on which poll you go by).

In any case, we have to continue to remember that one state doesn’t win the primary, and that there are mathematical factors at play including both delegate and popular vote. Currently Hillary is suffering a 150 delegate deficit and a 700k popular vote deficit, neither of which are likely to be impacted significantly on Tuesday.

With North Carolina looking to go big for Obama, he’s most likely going erase what little ground Clinton may make up in Pennsylvania and then some.

Beyond that, there are states that both candidates are going to be able to win, but simply put, there’s not enough room for Clinton to do what she has to do in order to win the nomination through the primary method of delegate count, nor through what has emerged as the chief alternate method of the popular vote.

Assuming Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana play out the way I believe they are going to play out (and there’s no reason they shouldn’t), Clinton will have only one shot at being the nominee; if something absolutely debilitating happens to Obama which prevents him from being able to compete in the General Election.

This puts the Clinton campaign in an awkward position. As Obama is likely to be the Democratic nominee, all Democrats should be focused on rallying to him as this provides the best opportunity to beating McCain, as well as establishing stronger majorities in the House and the Senate. This isn’t what we’re seeing right now, though, and this is because for Clinton, her political ambitions are best served not by helping Obama with damage control, but by forcing a campaign ending incident.

This is what I suppose is bothering me; after all is said and done, there is still life after Pennsylvania. There is still a General Election to be waged and, with any luck at all, a country to govern with a Democrat in the White House. Tragically, though, there are far too many Democrats out there, including Clinton herself, that have donned a set of blinders. They don’t seem capable of seeing beyond the Democratic nomination, and they most definitely can’t seem to look to the four years after Bush leaves office.

They only see a candidate that is losing and will do anything to change that, and hurt anyone that stands in the way. But what everyone seems to have forgotten is that the person who bears the greatest responsibility for where we are now is Mrs. Clinton and her campaign.

Now, I’m not talking about the negativity, I’m not talking about the gaffes, and this is by no means an attempt to disparage her personally. It is simply to say that she had a losing strategy. That she failed in key areas on this campaign, and was outplayed. It’s not Obama’s fault that Hillary Clinton chose not to play in small states, or that she didn’t run an effective campaign despite being the single most recognizable candidate in the field with an established warchest and fundraising mechanism.

Indeed, when we look at the tale of these two candidates, we see one candidate who had everything going for her, and chose a losing strategy, and we saw a candidate that was facing an uphill struggle and made some very wise decisions on the ground where it counted.

Yes, the media didn’t treat Clinton with kid gloves, but then anyone who believes that last week’s debate was the first time Obama was treated roughly by the media obviously is living in a bubble. Yes, misogyny has a role to play in this election, but so too does racism. There have been a lot of factors at play that have brought us to where we are, but the single largest one that no one seems to talk about is that Obama was smarter when he mapped out his course to the nomination than Clinton.

Plain and simple.

And for those who can’t seem to see that there is life after Pennsylvania, that there is life after a possible loss of the nomination by Clinton, that a McCain presidency truly would be just as bad as if Bush were to serve a third term. Well, for you folks, I’m afraid the next four years could prove to be the rudest awakening of them all.

I just wish you wouldn’t have to bring the rest of us down with you.

(edited by DrGail)

3 Responses to “Life After Pennsylvania”

  1. DrGail says:

    Your comments about the youthful Obama supporters not necessarily making it through the “likely voter” filters with the pollsters brings up another poll-related question:

    With so many (primarily younger) folks not having landlines these days, how do the pollsters take this into account? Could this also be suppressing Obama’s polling? Can a case be made that this has been operative in the polling for previous primary states?

    Inquiring minds want to know. . .

  2. VivaHillary says:

    “all Democrats should be focused on rallying to him as this provides the best opportunity to beating McCain” – I don’t think so.

    Obama has run a nasty and brutish campaign and there is no reason for Hillary voters to not continue to support her and to wait and see if Obama can win our votes. I am a lifelong Dem, have never voted for a Rethug, but if Obama’s the nominee, there may be a first time for everything. maybe if he didn’t love right wing frames so much like attacking Hillary on healthcare and caving to Rethugs/media whores on social security. Maybe if he didn’t love Reagan and Rethugs so much and promised to fight them. Maybe if he didn’t spend his campaign tearing down the Clinton brand and accusing all and sundry of racism. Maybe if his repellent supporters didn’t act like brownshirts. a whole lot of maybes. Democrats rallying to him? not now certainly and in the future? only time will tell…

  3. DM Metzger says:

    That’s actually been an issue ever since the widespread adoption of cell phones by youth DrGail. We don’t see a need for landline phones, pollsters can’t contact us on cells, and we get left out of the equation. It’s likely been an influencing factor in all of the previous polling, they just don’t know how to properly account for it.

    VivaHillary: If you think for even one second that a protest vote for McCain should Clinton lose the primary will do anything but screw our country and our future to hell and back you’ve obviously not been paying attention. You claim to be a Democrat; start acting like one. Quit spouting campaign talking points, pay attention to the positions, and understand exactly what you’re willing to visit upon our country. It’s petty and nothing short of short-sighted selfishness.

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