For the next two weeks, Indiana is officially the center of the political universe: “With a demographic landscape that’s well-suited to both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, Indiana is shaping up as the most consequential battleground of the remaining states.”
Argh. Why couldn’t this have happened last year, when I was living there?? [Um, because they don’t have presidential elections in odd years? -ed. Shh.]
Or, if you prefer a lengthier, more complete headline: "Clinton falsely claims popular vote lead, disenfranchising all voters in Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Washington, and all Michigan voters who preferred her opponent."
After last night’s decisive victory in Pennsylvania, more people
have voted for Hillary than any other candidate, including Sen. Obama.
Estimates vary slightly, but according to Real Clear Politics,
Hillary has received 15,095,663 votes to Sen. Obama’s 14,973,720, a
margin of more than 120,000 votes. … This count includes certified vote totals in Florida and Michigan.
[T]he Clinton campaign … [has] taken the roughly 215,000 net
votes Clinton gained in Pennsylvania, and added them to the popular
vote count that includes the unsanctioned contests in Michigan and Florida, and excludes caucuses in four states [Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington, whose caucuses do not report popular-vote totals, and Clinton is choosing not to estimate them]. How’s that for inclusiveness?
It gets worse. That Michigan vote [tally]? Obama wasn’t on the
ballot. If you count the "uncommitted" votes for Obama — all of them
anti-Hillary votes, remember — that would add 237,762 votes to Obama’s
Which means that in Clinton and Jerome [Armstrong]’s world, Clinton is ahead in the popular vote only IF you exclude four caucus states, IF you include two unsanctioned states, and IF you "disenfranchise" every voter in Michigan who voted against Hillary Clinton.
That takes a new and particularly audacious level of chutzpah.
(Hat tip: yea.)
Kos is missing an additional aspect of the audaciousness, though. As I pointed out previously, "after signing a pledge to the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South
Carolina and Nevada not to campaign in Florida and Michigan, she is now
arguing that Iowa and Nevada don’t matter, while Florida and Michigan do."
Say what you will about the more arcane procedural debates, re: what is the proper metric for "victory," what should happen with Michigan & Florida, what is the intended role of superdelegates, what it means to be a "pledged" delegate, etc. I firmly believe Hillary is wrong on those issues, too, but I concede that, at least to some extent, they are debatable.
However, there is no debate about this. There is no possible counterargument. It is completely and utterly indefensible for Hillary Clinton to make a blanket claim that "more people
have voted for Hillary than any other candidate" while literally ignoring duly held elections in four whole states!! And, similarly, it is totally dishonest for her to advance a "popular vote" legitimacy argument that depends on her Soviet-style "victory" of 328,309 to zero in Michigan.
Although I’m stereotypically the news junkie of our household, Becky has sometimes been getting out ahead of me recently in recognizing developing major news stories, in part because her playlist of things to listen to on her iPod while feeding Loyette includes some good newsy podcasts. Anyway, she’s been talking about food hoarding for some time. Now that story has appeared on my radar screen, via Drudge:
Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials
yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is
helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are
stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of
high prices and shortages spreading from overseas.
Their pleas did not find a sympathetic audience at the Commodity
Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where regulators said high prices
are mostly the result of soaring world demand for grains combined with
high fuel prices and drought-induced shortages in many countries.
The regulatory clash came amid evidence that a rash of headlines in
recent weeks about food riots around the world has prompted some in the
United States to stock up on staples.
Costco and other grocery stores in California reported a run on rice,
which has forced them to set limits on how many sacks of rice each
customer can buy. Filipinos in Canada are scooping up all the rice they
can find and shipping it to relatives in the Philippines, which is
suffering a severe shortage that is leaving many people hungry.
My expert analysis is that, uh, this isn’t a good thing.
Incidentally, I’ve created a separated blog category called "The Economy & Finance." With all the bad news about those topics lately, it was time.
Meanwhile, TNR’s Jonathan Cohn argues that the general-election polling indicates there is "no reason to panic." He also speculates that 45% may be McCain’s "ceiling."
Also at TNR, Josh Patashnik rebuts the idea that "Obama’s likely nomination is somehow
illegitimate unless he wins over Hillary’s demographic groups–even if
his coalition is a narrow majority" with a basketball analogy (my apologies in advance to Jay):
If a basketball team has held a lead of, say,
six or seven points for the entire second half, the fact that the lead
isn’t getting any bigger as the clock ticks below a minute left doesn’t
mean that the team is any less likely to win. On the contrary, it makes
the "frontrunner’s" small lead nearly insurmountable, absent some
dreadful foul shooting. Then again, those urging Hillary to drop out
might want to ask John Calipari what he thinks of the idea.
Elsewhere on the Internets, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein points out that Obama actually did cut into Hillary’s demographics — just not enough. Of course, that’s according to the exit polls, and I think Mickey Kaus has a point when he writes, "If the exit polls are this unreliable for press’
result-predicting purposes, why aren’t they also unreliable for all the
scholarly purposes they are supposedly put to? Garbage is garbage, no?" I suppose the answer is that they’re retroactively "weighted" once the real results are known, but that has to be a somewhat imprecise process. I’m skeptical.
Kevin Drum says Hillary "seems to have won by roughly the same margin she would have won by
even if she and Barack Obama hadn’t just spent $40 million there. In other words, the campaign was not only pointless, but pointless and wildly expensive. On to North Carolina!"
Mark Ambinder notes that Clinton winning the pledged delegate count is now "more than next to impossible." It’s well and truly impossible. Dick Morris says that means last night’s victory is "too little, too late" for Hillary: "The Democratic superdelegates aren’t about to risk a massive and
sanguinary civil war by taking the nomination away from the candidate
who won more elected delegates. If they ever tried it, we’d see a
repeat of the demonstrations that smashed the 1968 Chicago convention
and ruined Hubert Humphrey’s chances of victory."
John Cole says "Hillary’s vanity campaign will continue on, trailing in delegates,
trailing in the popular vote, trailing in enthusiasm and money, but not
lacking in the firm resolve that only Hillary can save us all from our
selves." (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)
Speaking of Sullivan, he writes:
It’s worth recalling what this primary came to be about, because of
a self-conscious decision by the Clintons to adopt the tactics and
politics of the people who persecuted and hounded them in the 1990s. It
was indeed in the end about smearing and labeling Obama as a far-left,
atheist, elite, pansy Godless snob fraud. That was almost all it came
to be about. It was the Clintons’ core message and core belief. And if
anywhere would have proved its salience, it would surely have been
beleaguered and depressed central and western Pennsylvania; and it
would surely have worked with white ethnic voters over 50.
It did work, it seems to me. It will work, to some extent. It’s
valid in the sense that Rove is not stupid. But it works less and less
the younger the vote is; and it is obviously losing some of its
divisive salience even among the older generation. It is fading as a
tool. Used by Democrats, legitimized by Democrats, embraced by
Democrats, the Rove-Atwater gambits have been paid the highest
compliment by the Clintons these past few weeks. But a single digit win
against a young black man in a polarized race suggests that this
compliment was past its sell-by date. It was an act of desperation, and
one last grab back to the past. It didn’t quite do what it was supposed
to do. Nearly, but not quite.
And the New York Times, which endorsed Clinton back in the day, echoes Sully by lambasting her for taking the "low road to victory" in Pennsylvania: "It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that
the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but
harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."
Last but not least, Ron Paul lives! Say it with me, Paultards: "WE’RE #2! WE’RE #2!" ;)
So, Hillary won by about 10 points. Yawn.
Lots of spin coming from both campaigns tonight. I’d say the real story is that this leaves us basically where we were. It was a decisive win for Hillary but that was the expectation. … There’s a lot of crowing from Hillary’s campaign tonight about a shift in momentum and doubts about Obama. Tomorrow there will be a lot of chatter from Obama’s campaign that none of that really matters because of the reality of the delegate numbers which won’t change much.
Like I said, I think that means we’re basically right where we were.
I’m not sure how following up a 10-point win in Ohio with a 10-point win in Pennsylvania demonstrates “momentum” for Hillary. If Wrightgate, Bittergate, Debategate, etc., had damaged Obama among Democratic voters, you’d think Hillary would have been able to build on her Ohio margin. But she didn’t. On the other hand, if there was going to be a significant backlash against Hillary’s kitchen-sink strategy, you’d think Obama would have been able to cut her lead to single digits. But he didn’t. He did “rally” from his initial 20-point deficit in PA opinion polls, but I’m not sure that means anything. So we’re basically stuck on the status quo, like Marshall says. Nothing has changed. And that includes the fact that the Obama Effect struck again with the exit polls.
In fact, it’s not clear that much of anything has changed since Super Tuesday, or even earlier. For all the talk of shifting momentum, I think this contest will ultimately be viewed by historians almost purely through the prism of regional and demographic trends. You don’t need to look at the calendar to understand how things have unfolded. Geography and demography alone (and caucuses vs. primaries) explain the results. Obama’s February “winning streak” was a coincidence of friendly states stacked up one after another on the calendar; same with Clinton’s recent trifecta of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. She hasn’t really “halted” his “momentum,” so much as the calendar has simply shifted in her favor, geographically and demographically speaking. And likewise, when he wins North Carolina, he won’t be “halting” her “momentum.” He’ll just be winning another Obama-friendly state, just like she’s winning the Clinton-friendly states. For all its moving parts, this race is really quite static. It’s more helpfully viewed on a map rather than on a timeline.
Apropos of which, now we move on to a pair of election days that seem quite likely, based on these rather rigid geographic/demographic trends, to be split decisions: May 6 (Indiana for Clinton, North Carolina for Obama) and May 20 (Kentucky for Clinton, Oregon for Obama). Watch out, though, for the primary that’s in between those two, West Virginia on May 13. It’s all by itself on the calendar, and it’s certain to be a Clinton blowout, given her consistent success in Appalachia, which came through for her again yesterday. (Hat tip: InstaPundit.) It’ll be an accomplishment for Obama if he can hold his margin of defeat under 20% there. West Virginia could be her South Carolina. That could really get the talking heads’ tongues wagging about Hillary’s “momentum.” Expect a full-throttle “expectations game” effort by Team Obama to try and convince the media they’re writing off the Mountaineer State.
Anyway… on to Indiana and North Carolina! YAAAARRH!!!
P.P.S. On the geographic/demographic point: name one state that’s been a true “upset” in retrospect, a contest that one candidate won where you’d have expected the other to prevail. Obama’s win in Missouri? Maybe, but it borders Illinois, so maybe not. Obama’s win in Connecticut? Superficially, perhaps, but I think if you know a little more about the Nutmeg State electorate — and its maverick streak in primaries — that was pretty predictable. Hillary’s win in New Hampshire? Yes. And that, IMHO, is actually still the only true upset of this entire campaign. (And it only happened because the contest was still a three-way race at that point. if Edwards isn’t in the race, Obama beats Hillary there, too, just as you’d expect.)
That’s all from me, kiddies. I gotta go to work early tomorrow, so I’m turning off the TV, shutting down the computer, and getting ready for bed. Thanks for all the traffic, and by all means, feel free to keep commenting as the candidates make their speeches, and as the results — and the spin — continue to roll in.
With the race now moving on to Indiana and North Carolina on May 6 — and probably West Virginia (May 13) and Oregon and Kentucky (May 20) — here’s my question: will Clinton and/or Obama attend the Kentucky Derby? It’s on May 3.
I posed this question to Becky yesterday, and she responded with an even better question: “Where would they sit?” Hmm… perhaps the “elitist” Obama would sit in the grandstand, sipping a mint julep (with Michelle wearing one of those giant hats), while Clinton would mingle with the bitter, clingy, drunken plebians on the infield! :)
And then there would be the question of which horse they would each pick. Whose favorite would do better? It would take the concept of the political “horse race” to a whole new level!
In similarly silly election-related commentary, don’t miss the debate about puppies in the open thread.
On a more serious note — well, sort of — Josh Marshall writes, “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a higher proportion of hypothetical spin on both sides in the absence of voting numbers. At the moment Tim Russert is going back and forth making each campaign’s arguments based on various hypothetical vote spread.” Heh.
Meanwhile, InstaPundit links to the drunkblogging Stephen Green, who notes, “If the Democrats ran a winner-take-all system like the Republicans and the Electoral College do, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have this thing clinched Ã¢â‚¬â€ and Obama would look like a regional candidate who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t win much outside the South and his home state of Illinois.” Well, yes, but no. If the Democrats ran a winner-take-all system, both candidates would have had vastly different strategies. Obama would have spent less time, energy and money in caucus states where he knew he could rack up big delegate margins, and focused more on the “big states.” Among other things, it’s entirely possible he would have won Texas (since he would have been paying zero attention to Ohio or Rhode Island under this scenario).
You can’t divorce the results from the process. And anyway, the process is what it is. The Democrats don’t have a winner-take-all system like the Republicans and the Electoral College do. They have a proportional system, because they decided to have a proportional system. You don’t change the rules in the middle of the game — or spin them into some alternate reality. They are what they are. And Obama’s gonna win.
Sen. Hillary Clinton will win the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, CNN projects.
Per Talking Points Memo.
No call yet on CNN, which is what I’m watching. Can’t get enough of Wolfie doin’ a heckvua job. :)
As an aside, this may be my last chance to watch Wolf Blitzer “call” a race — complete with his (as I’ve put it before) rambling run-on sentences, senseless repetition of people’s names and other random words, redundant recitation of the same facts over and over again, odd choices of verbal emphasis, constant talk about everything being “important” and “historic,” endless self-referential comments, unnecessary references to “right now,” “standing by,” etc., etc. — until November, because Becky and I are thinking about canceling our cable due to a budget crunch and our Comcast problems (and the fact that, during the interregnum between college basketball and college football seasons, we really don’t need it).
UPDATE: CNN calls it! Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, is the winner right now in the very important state of Pennsylvania right now, according to our exit polls, right now. Hillary Clinton will win, will win, Pennsylvania, right now. (Not a direct quote.)
UPDATE 2: Is this Rush Limbaugh’s doing?
CNN analyst Bill Schneider just slipped when talked about Hillary Clinton’s 60% support among seniors (which is less than her 72% support in Ohio), and basically admitted — catching himself too late — that she’s “leading” overall (according to his interpretation of the exit polls) in what the network is officially calling a “competitive” race with Obama:
“She’s not doing as well among seniors, but there are a lot more of them in Pennsylvania, and that’s why she’s still lead– er, very competitive.”
I’ll finish the sentence for you, Bill: “That’s why she’s still leading.”
But, unsurprisingly, no “call” yet from Wolf Blitzer, Wolf Blitzer. He says, “We can characterize this race right now as very competitive. We cannot project a winner based on the exit poll numbers alone.” I’m shocked, shocked.
Remember, folks: the fact that it’s “competitive based on the exit polls” doesn’t mean it’ll actually be close in the end. It’s probably fair to say that it won’t be a mega-blowout (like, 15 points or more), but beyond that, this alleged “competitiveness” means very little. CNN initially characterized Ohio as “competitive,” too, based on the exit polls.
P.S. More meaningful than leaked exit poll numbers or CNN projections of “competitiveness”: my wardrobe choice! I’m wearing my lucky Obama shirt tonight. I’ve worn it on every election night from Super Tuesday on, except March 4, when I forgot to wear it. So, if the shirt’s luck holds, maybe those leaked numbers are right, after all! :)
Incidentally, in a brilliant bit of strategery :), I’ve positioned myself so that, no matter what happens tonight, I predicted it! If Hillary performs up to expectations or better, I was right with my widely linked “don’t trust the exit polls” posts. On the other hand, if Obama exceeds expectations, I was right with my Sullylanched “backlash” post! I can’t lose! Heh.
The polls close in an hour. Go nuts.
UPDATE: Holy cow. I leave work, drive home, eat dinner, put the baby to bed, and by the time I finally get to my computer at just before 7:30 PM (this post was created in advance and published automatically at 7:00), I’ve had almost 7,500 hits in an hour-and-a-half, thanks to link-love for my “don’t trust the exit polls” post from Real Clear Politics, the Huffington Post, the National Review, the New Republic, Mickey Kaus, Daily Kos, Free Republic and Democratic Underground, among others. (Talk about a motley ideological crew!)
Craziness!! Admittedly, I did link-whore the post to a bunch of people before leaving work, but I never expected this kind of success. :) Anyway, welcome, new readers! I’ll be live-blogging the election results tonight, so stay tuned!
Deep breaths, people. Deep breaths. Repeat after me: Obama always does well in the leaked, unweighted exit polls. He then does worse in the actual results than in the exit polls. This has happened over and over and over again. We should no longer be surprised by it. These numbers are therefore completely meaningless. They ought not alter the "expectations game" one iota. If Hillary wins by around 10 points, it will not be a "comeback." It will not be a "surprise." It will be the expected result. These numbers do not change that fact. At. All.
Are you listening, media punditry? Or will you fall into the same trap you did on Super Tuesday (when exit polls had Obama winning New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Arizona — all of which he lost handily — and in a dead heat in California) and on March 4 (when exit polls had Obama winning Texas and Ohio), of giving Hillary Clinton undue credit for fully-expected victories?
THESE NUMBERS MEAN NOTHING.
UPDATE: National Review’s Campaign Spot has Obama ahead by 5 points, 52-47.
Again: meaningless! The only reasonable assumption, based on past experience, is still that Hillary will win by a wide margin.
Also remember Politico’s Pennsylvania-specific cautionary note about the actual results, once those start trickling in: "DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be fooled by early results. The cities and
suburbs usually report their returns first, which gives the candidate
favored in those areas a quick Ã¢â‚¬â€œ- and sometimes fleeting Ã¢â‚¬â€œ- lead. The
conservative-leaning small towns through the center of the state
usually filter in much later in the evening. … So Obama could show a lead in the early results, but it might be short-lived."
Again, deep breaths, people.
1. What will tonight’s Pennsylvania percentages be?
2. On what date will Hillary Clinton drop out of the race?
After the jump, some important dates that might influence people’s answers to question #2.