Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Y'all know me, and you know I'm a political junkie. But I haven't been talking politics because I'm kind of tired of the race right now. Before Pennsylvania, the state of the race was that Obama was ahead in the popular vote and ahead in delegates. Clinton's people were very good at coming up with counter-factuals and rules changes that would put her ahead, but in the game they were playing and according to the rules everyone agreed to, Obama was winning.

Pennsylvania was her last chance to change that. Her support there was strong, the population is large, and they have a lot of delegates because they're a dependably Democratic state. But she needed to win by more than 200,000 votes to take the lead in the popular vote (if we change the rules and count Michigan and Florida) and by some unattainable margin to pull ahead in delegates. Basically, her only path to victory was to get ahead in the popular vote, and convince the superdelegates with a combination of narrative, spin, and vote counts that they ought to overrule the pledged delegates and nominate her.

She barely got the vote count she needed. The margin of victory (9.34% by my count) was nowhere close to what she needed, but not so low as to knock her out of the race. Basically, Pennsylvania didn't change the race, except for two things.

Thing One: There are no more really big states. Which means taking the lead isn't really an option. Obama is winning on points. To create a perception of momentum, Clinton needs a series of big victories, and polling indicates that's not going to happen.

Thing Two: She's broke. Yes, she's raised some new money off last night's victory, but her campaign is still millions in the red, while Obama has $40 million in the bank. That's going to be hard to overcome.

Because of Thing One, she's basically only got one path left to the nomination, which is through the superdelegates. She needs to convince them that Obama is incapable of winning the general election. The problem is that convincing the party elite to ignore the electorate and put her in the top spot will cause a lot of hurt feelings, and would cause enough dems to stay home in November to render her unelectable. So, basically, she needs Obama to self-destruct somehow, while she soldiers on, which Thing Two makes it very hard for her to do.

Regardless of the merits of her campaign or herself, I just don't see a path to victory for her here.

Update: Thing Two is apparently no longer true. She's raised a lot of money off her Pennsylvania victory, and is now in a position to keep contesting the nomination. Thing One still holds, but here's an interesting take on the long primary season and its benefits for Democratic datamining efforts.

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