Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Bitter Evening

On the same day that the RCP polling average reached an all-time high for Obama, with a 10.4% lead over Clinton, he lost Pennsylvania by a margin nearly as great (about 9.8%). What does this mean for the Democratic Party? Well, it means that the impasse is deepening. Delegate-wise, not much will happen. Whatever net delegate advantage Clinton gains from tonight's voting will be erased by Obama's likely victory in North Carolina in two weeks. But the superdelegates are getting mixed messages. The margin of victory - close to 10% but not quite - is smack dab in the middle between a good showing and a poor showing for Clinton. Good enough to keep on going, not good enough to claim that the voters are starting to turn away from Obama after flirting with him in February.

And that may be what matters. Clinton's only chance to persuade superdelegates to tip the balance to her over pledged delegates is if the superdelegates perceive that the ordinary Democratic voters (and perhaps the pledged delegates who represent them) are having a sense of "buyer's remorse" about Obama. It's not really happening. Instead, we have a situation where the Obama camp has a clear delegate lead but Clinton continues to win among traditional Democratic constituencies: union households, white women, and the elderly. The national polls (i.e., mostly those who already voted) have been trending inexorably toward Obama.

The situation within the party may have calcified. Obama will probably win North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota; Clinton will probably win Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and Indiana. Nobody knows or cares about Guam (sorry Guamanians, but there are 4 delegates, and the chances of any split other than 2-2 are statistically negligible). Democrats will finish the primary season much as they stand now: with about 100 delegate lead for Obama, but still about 100 delegates short of victory, and 300 superdelegates left. I fear that Clinton is just weakening a party she cannot really hope to lead, sowing unhappiness among traditional Democratic voters without good purpose. Naturally, if Clinton or Obama do better than predicted above, the situation may be more fluid, but little of that seems likely. The only real possibility of a momentum-changer is in Indiana.

The reason for the stagnation, I believe, lays squarely with Obama. He has lost control of the message coming out of his campaign. Somehow, Clinton has been able to define herself as the insurgent. The message of Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe - that Obama's nomination is inevitable - sounds no better than when Clinton's campaign said it about her.

15 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

As a side note, most estimates of superdelegates now put Obama and Clinton very close indeed, just 10 - 30 delegates separating them. This has been quietly tightening over the past few weeks. I suspect we will soon see the first estimates with more superdelegates supporting Obama than Clinton. That may be what sews up the race for Obama in the next couple of weeks.

For now, the Democratic Party remains flush with cash, continues to bask in media attention, and still enjoys unprecedented voter turnout in every contest. I continue to hope that the Democratic Party leadership will be able to bring the two candidates together somehow in June, avoiding a train wreck in Denver. I am still holding out hope for the "dream ticket." I think we call it that for a reason.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree that Obama has been knocked off message. The preacher problem and the "bitter" gaffe have combined to keep the press pool's attention away from what Obama is saying most of the time - change change change.

I don't know what Obama can do to get attention back on his message but that's why I'm not a campaign manager.

I'm increasingly coming to the point of view that Hillary really doesn't want a Democratic victory in November if she's not the nominee. I think really think that from her perspective, it would be far better for McCain to win than for Obama to win. If Obama wins in November, she would have to wait until 2016 to run again - by that time, the growing "boomer fatique" could well be insurmountable. But if McCain wins she would be the obvious nominee going into 2012.

Political scientists believe that all parties and politicians are motivated by a combination of office seeking, policy seeking, and vote seeking. These are all relatd and no one can completely ignore one in favor of the other two but strong biases in favor of one or the other are possible. I've long been convinced that Bill Clinton leans heavily away from the policy seeking emphasis in favor of vote and office seeking. Watching this primary season, and Hillary's short career in the Senate, has convinced me that she has a similar outlook.

History Buff said...

yes, but what would happen if McCain got elected and he exceeded expectations and was a great president?? I don't see how this strategy makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Strangelove said...

We should remember that Hillary and Obama both hit turbulence over the past six weeks: Pastor-gate, Bosnia-gate, and Bitter-gate. RCP's nifty chart for PA polling history shows that Hillary's numbers jumped up when Pastor-gate hit, but she gave those short-lived gains right back to Obama when Bosnia-gate hit. And there was no visible effect on the polls from Bitter-gate at all.

Raised By Republicans said...

Historybuff, I'm not saying that HRC expects to win in 2012 against McCain automatically but if Obama were the incumbent president, HRC would not even be able to run for the nomination - unless Obama were so wildly unpopular with his own party as to provoke such an internal challenge (ala Kennedy vs Carter in 1980).

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. Given the overall trend of steadily increasing support for Obama over time, stable numbers between Obama and Clinton might be due to Obama being off message.

His message of change change change and more change is a big winner this year and the fact that he hasn't been getting the same coverage on that message lately could have hurt him by preventing even greater gains than he might have otherwise gotten.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The PA polling chart shows Obama gained support in PA, but not steadily: there was a single dramatic upward lurch in his support in the last week in March.

The national polling data shows also that the post-Super-Tuesday steady state began to break for Obama around the last week in March.

Raised By Republicans said...

Nevertheless, a flattening of support after preachergate and bittergate could be the result of those events having an effect.

The effect might have been to dampen his otherwise upward movement. It is not neccessary to observe a decline in order for these events to have had an effect.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Actually, I think the PA polling chart more reflects that polling began in earnest in late March. The flatness is a combination of the fact that PPP posted an unusual 26point lead for Clinton on 3/16 the very same week polls began to be released on a near-daily basis.

History Buff said...

I love the way that Perfect Storm and yourchoice-gate have come into the vernacular. It seems like I hear one of these terms in almost every other news story.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The great thing about cliches, as Orwell pointed out, is that it saves you having to really think. At least, that's why I suspect I like them... ;-)

Raised By Republicans said...

What we need now is a gate-gate to underscore the crazy overuse of the term.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Gate-gate... like the can-can, only more scandalous.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Future generations will not realize that Watergate was not about water.

The Law Talking Guy said...
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