Four Observations about Pennsylvania

21. April 2008, 10:37
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Martin Schneider writes:

1. It's been interesting to watch the analysts talk about the expectations. After Ohio and Texas in early March, all you heard about is how tough the math is for Hillary, as in "She could win 70% of all the remaining states and still be behind." The math is very, very tough for Hillary. Since then, there has been a slow and steady trickle of Democrats in Obama's direction. And yet today you see analysts say that all Hillary needs is victory of any kind. The criteria have changed. Hillary really needs a victory of 15-20 points, but the pundits are pretending that an 8-point victory will actually help Hillary when it's just irrelevant from a delegate standpoint.

2. Michele Norris of NPR made this point yesterday, and it's certainly an interesting one. All of the polls of Pennsylvania voters are polls of registered Democrats -- but it's been widely reported that the last few weeks have seen an incredible spike in new Democratic registrations. This means that the polls and the electorate are substantially different bodies of people. Really, the outcome will depend on who these new Democrats are. Some of them may look a bit like Republicans, which should help Hillary, but many will be young voters, which should help Obama.

3. One reason for the relative vapidity of the contest stems from the similarity of the positions that Hillary and Obama hold. That is, since they can't really argue about policy differences, there is only personality to argue about. It's made for a frustrating month, but lurking in there is good news for Democrats -- because it means that there are no major ideological differences dividing Democrats. There have been a lot of statistics about what percentage of Obama voters will not vote for Hillary if Hillary wins, and vice versa. But in reality, the Democrats would be much worse off if there were some major issue that the two bodies of voters disagreed on. There is not.

4. The last weeks have been so hard on Obama that he may benefit from the expectations game in some small degree. If Hillary wins Pennsylvania by single digits, I think many people will perceive Obama as having passed some kind of test -- that is, weathered a very difficult month without losing support -- remember, he was down by 20 points in Pennsylvania a month ago. After Rev. Wright and "Bittergate," hanging in there will take on its own kind of virtue.

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