Mark Halperin calls today "The Last Monday Before the First Tuesday of the Rest of Our Lives." He is referring, of course, to tomorrow’s Pennsylvania primary. The latest polls show Clinton with a lead in the high single digits to low double digits. I maintain that a double-digit win is necessary for Clinton to really claim an unalloyed "victory"; Obama "wins" if he can hold her margin under 5 points; and a Clinton margin of between 5 and 10 points is a murky gray area. Though, the state of the race at around 10:00 or 11:00 PM Eastern time probably matters at least as much as the actual final numbers, since the media usually decides its transitory "winners" and "losers" before bedtime on the East Coast.
Oh yeah, and, um, delegates. Those matter too.
One cautionary note to those who, like me, are hoping for a strong Obama showing. Don’t put any stock in the leaked exit poll numbers. I’ll publish the details tomorrow, but bottom line, when you look at New Hampshire, Super Tuesday and March 4, Obama does, on average, roughly 7 to 8 points worse in the actual, final results than in the leaked, unweighted exit polls. (And sometimes the discrepancy is 15 points or more!) So when Drudge announces the inevitable "SHOCK EXIT POLL" numbers late tomorrow afternoon that show a "DEAD HEAT" in Pennsylvania, you shouldn’t get all excited — and neither should the media. When Hillary ultimately trudges to an 8-point win, nobody should be surprised, nor should it be considered some sort of Clinton "comeback," for heaven’s sake. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 21 times, shame on me.
UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers!
Here are the exit-poll details that I promised above.
P.S. Noam Scheiber writes:
Ben Smith makes a great point here.
He says Obama’s had such a rough stretch lately that it’ll be almost
impossible for Hillary to spin a single-digit win…into a victory. Expectations for Obama have fallen through the floor.
I certainly hope that’s right, and from what I’ve read, the MSM seems to be sticking to its "Hillary must win big" guns for once (see, e.g., this AP article), rather than allowing the yea scenario to repeat itself.
Anyway, Scheiber goes on:
[O]ne thing to keep in mind is that the
psychology of the moment almost certainly favors Obama. I’ve argued
that it’s really hard for him to land a knockout blow because, while a
lot of voters don’t want Hillary to win, they don’t want her to lose
either. Every near-death encounter–New Hampshire and March 4 in
particular–seems to net her a bounce.
But it obviously doesn’t look like she faces elimination in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. On top of which, she’s looking as unsympathetic
as she’s looked in weeks. So in some respects, the conditions may be
ripe for a better-than-expected Obama showing: People can vote
for Obama without worrying about killing Hillary, and those who
do think they’re killing Hillary may actually want to by now.
As long as "better than expected" doesn’t become "expected," then yes. :)