Clinton Pennsylvania Victory Means Democrats Split Could Deepen (Analysis And Roundup)


Senator Hillary Clinton got the Pennsylvania Democratic primary victory she needed so she could press the case that she should continue in the race because rival candidate Senator Barack Obama could not close the deal after vastly outspending her.

But her victory margin (a 10 percent margin, at this writing) most certainly means that the increasingly ugly battle for the Democratic party nomination will go well into June…and perhaps all the way to the convention.

Clinton ran a campaign of negativity unprecedented for a modern political primary. And the increasingly raw fissures in the Democratic party show no sign of receding: if anything, her victory means they will likely accentuate. Meanwhile, it is a fact: Obama has not been able to win over voting blocs that seemingly remain his stumbling blocks.

And what next? Obama is favored to win North Carolina. If so, will the Clinton camp argue that a win there doesn’t matter? And what about Indiana? It’s likely to become a prime battleground — perhaps one of the most important primaries of this looooooooong primary season. How did the Pennsylvania voting shape up? CBS News:

The Pennsylvania Democratic primary shared many of the same vote characteristics of other primary states this season – with Clinton winning her core base of union members, less educated and lower income voters and rural voters, and Obama winning voters with more education and income, and black voters.

What made Pennsylvania different, however, is the consistency of these traditional gaps as well as the appearance of some new divides. With intense media coverage of Obama’s recent statements regarding small town voters, and a consistent characterization of him as an elitist both by the media and by the campaigns of Clinton and John McCain, these pre-existing social divides grew larger in this first contest since the story broke.

In the primary Clinton received 71 percent of the vote from white members of labor union households, leading Obama by a striking 43 points. In contrast, Clinton won a smaller proportion of the white non-union vote, still besting Obama by 57 percent to 43 percent. This union vote is in stark contrast to the union vote in Ohio, one of the most recent and similar contests. In Ohio Clinton received 67 percent of the white union vote, and 62 percent of white non-union vote. This demonstrates a more polarized electorate by union status in Pennsylvania than Ohio.

This pattern of division repeats itself among other groups that have been important in past contests. White Democratic voters making less than $50,000 a year supported Clinton with 66 percent, compared to 58 percent support from those making over $50,000 a year. Obama received 24 percent and 42 percent respectively.

There was a 19 point preference gap between the less educated and the more educated in Pennsylvania primary voting. Clinton won 75 percent of the vote from white Democrats with a high school diploma or less – three times Obama’s vote among these voters – compared to 56 percent of those with more education.

Meanwhile, each candidate gave their own (predictable) spin on the election results. Clinton said the tide was turning and America deserved a President who wasn’t a quitter (TRANSLATION: She ain’t getting out until she runs out of money or feels it’s fruitless to stay in.) Obama noted that his campaign started way behind (TRANSLATION: He didn’t do as badly as it seemed he would do but it was not a good night for him). But the voting results really mean this:

“Hillary Clinton appears to have done what she needed to do in order to keep her campaign going on into Indiana and North Carolina and possibly well beyond that,” said senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. “For Obama, this loss stems some of the sense of inevitability of his campaign and increases the pressure on him to regain the momentum.”

But now the Obama campaign faces a dilemma, as The Washington Post notes:

Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative — with a sharp eye on trying to end the Democratic presidential nomination fight after the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s victory yesterday in Pennsylvania has only accentuated the quandary that Obama faces: Stay negative and he risks undermining the premise of his candidacy. Stay aloof and he underscores Clinton’s argument that he will not be able to beat a “Republican attack machine” sure to greet him this summer.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe indicated last night which of those options they would take. “We’ve done a lot of counterpunching. We’ve been swift and effective,” he said. “For Democrats judging how we’re going to perform as the nominee, we have been relentless.”

But the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics — hopeful, positive and inspiring — saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania. Provoked by Clinton’s repeated references to his remarks about the state’s voters and her charges that he is an “elitist,” Obama struck back in the closing days of the campaign. “It’s a real danger for Obama, and if you look at these recent ads, the messages they’re delivering in all these conference calls, it’s a far cry from last fall,” when the theme of hope emerged amid calls for a more negative tone, said Democratic consultant Steve Elmendorf, a Clinton supporter.

Republican strategist John Feehery put it less charitably: “That’s the danger of running as holier than thou. You have a lot farther to fall.”

And so it continues. The primary that many thought at one time would decide the race ends with more primaries that will (supposedly) decide the race. Which means more opportunities for the growing fissures in the Democratic party to deepen, and for wounds to reach the point where they may not be healed in time for victory in November.


Andrew Sullivan:

But here’s what she does have: total shamelessness, and an absolute belief that she is the rightful nominee. Shamelessness: the appropriation of the message and even the words of her opponent; the portrayal of one of the most privileged and advantaged candidates in memory as an insurgent underdog; the eager embrace of the tactics – and message! – of the Rove right if it could help in any way; the picture of a candidate who saw a 20 – 25 point lead dissipate into single figures as a candidate for momentum. What sustains her is this deep, deep sense of entitlement and an absolute refusal to let the next generation take over. She will take this to the last day of the convention if necessary.

If Obama thinks he has a right to actually be nominated by the Clinton Democrats because he has won more votes, more states and more delegates, he is sadly mistaken. They will never let such a person win without a death struggle. And that is where the Democrats are now headed.

Talk Left:

Hillary has broken the 200,000 vote margin with 93% of the Pennsylvania vote in. Her campaign raised more than $2,500,000. since the polls closed….Obama’s Indiana party was slow, there were empty seats.

….The superdelegates are going to be doing some serious thinking about electability. Paticularly when they consider the popular vote. They can consider Florida and Michigan in the popular vote even if the DNC doesn’t. You can’t disenfranchise MI and FL and expect to carry those states in November. This race is far from over.

Finland For Thought:

I think it’s official now – this primary is going all the way to the Democratic National Convention in August before Barack is finally declared the winner. After an entire spring and summer of battling, the Democratic supporters will finally be tired and poor, essentially handing an easy victory to John McCain. Great.

Greg Mitchell writing on The Huffington Post:

And once again, the old phenomenon of exit polls proven wrong because people with racist votes do not tell pollsters the truth on election day again reared its head. The major and final exit polls today indicated only a 4% Clinton win. Now it looks like 10%. That difference is largely the racial vote, most likely.

Anyway, I will leave it at that — you guys and gals go at it. As I’ve said before, I am just putting this all out there, not to suggest, at all, that Obama should not or can not be the nominee. Let’s just say that I am very sensitive to the continuing problems of race and racial prejudice in society.

Red State:

The Democrats currently have as their front-runner a man who couldn’t win seven* of them. A man who couldn’t win two of the three reliably Blue states**. A man who won none of the four*** that are generally considered to be battleground states this year.

But hey: he won Idaho and Wyoming, right?


Matthew Yeglesias:

I have to say that I’m getting really tired of this. All the superdelegates should just say who they’re voting for and bring this to the end. If they want to back Hillary Clinton despite Obama’s majority in elected delegates, they should say so. Or if they want Barack Obama to be the nominee, they should say so. The idea that in two weeks we’ll have another inconclusive primary, then another, then another, then another and then the superdelegates make up their mind is inane — everyone else who follows politics can decide.

Stephen Green aka Vodkapundit did his usual unique “drunkblogging” for Pajamas Media. He does some of the best live blogging around. A key excerpt:

Clinton can’t quit now, not with Obama showing certain weaknesses with Democratic voters and near-fatal weaknesses with the general electorate. Keep in mind, voters want change, and voters in economically-distressed Pennsylvania more than most. But with them, Obama was either the wrong kind of change, not enough change — or maybe too much change.

And Clinton was right, earlier today, when she asked why Obama can’t “close the deal.” There are probably only three kinds of Obama voters. The True Believers, the Anybody But Clintons, and the Wary. Reverend Wright and Bittergate — and today’s election — have shown that it’s not that tough to strip the Wary voters off of Obama’s coattails. I mean, even Hillary Clinton can do that.

….The Democrats’ process is designed to give everyone “a voice.” Not a win, not a candidate, but “a voice.” Unless, of course, the unelected and unaccountable “superdelegates” capriciously choose to strip the people of their voice. In which case, you know, too bad. What the Democratic primaries don’t do — what they seemed designed to put off doing — choosing a nominee for the office of the President of the United States of America.

Obsidian Wings:

Frankly, I think the superdelegates have all picked their horse already. They’re just waiting for the appropriate political “cover” — and PA voters didn’t provide it tonight. If these people were inclined to support Clinton, they would have hopped on the bandwagon a long time ago. So they’re just waiting for the slam dunk plus foul to jump in and endorse Obama.

Assuming I’m right about the reason for their delay (i.e., the need for “cover”), their line of thinking makes no sense. What exactly do they need cover from? What retribution will meet them if they decide now as opposed to after ten more virtual ties? It’s not like Obama is radioactive in Red states (at least judging by his current superdelegate endorsements). And they no longer have to fear the Clinton “machine” — indeed, getting rid of that power structure is probably the reason they didn’t back Clinton in the first place.

The Democratic Daily:

She Can” indeed. But, the question to ask now is “how come Barack Obama just can’t seem to close the deal?”

Kos of Daily Kos:

Clinton has “grit”, says a Clinton staffer. Well great, she may have that. I’ll never deny that. What she doesn’t have is the math (as much as they may hate people pointing that out). Oh, and “Obama doesn’t seem to win the battleground states”.

Well, how about, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Maine? Sheesh.

So seriously, what is Clinton’s path to the nomination?


A little more than half of the vote has been counted now, and Hillary leads by ten percentage points. Moreover, it seems that the half that hasn’t been counted is comprised disproportionately of non-urban areas where Clinton is particularly strong. So now it seems quite possible that Hillary will get her double-digit victory after all. Such a victory probably wouldn’t produce panic at the thought of nominating Obama, but it would increase doubt over the wisdom of doing so.

ONE MORE NOTE: Exit polls showed that only slightly more half of those who voted today consider Hillary Clinton trustworthy. Yet Clinton has won a decisive victory. Obama must be fairly unpopular in Pennsylvania.

John Cole:

I have had the tv on for 2 minutes and am already ready to scream as Joe Scarborough asks why “obama can not close the deal.”

Gee. I dunno. Because he is running against an exceedingly popular candidate who has a 16 year advantage building a political machine who just a few months ago was Mrs. Inevitable?

Idiots. That is like bitching at the Giants for only beating the Patriots by a few points.

Taylor Marsh:

Obama dumped a boatload of cash into Pennsylvania, as he did in Texas, but he still can’t close the deal. It’s also why Obama is keeping Florida and Michigan from being counted. He can’t afford to have the popular vote count in those states. The other problem is that Obama’s baggage has been spotlighted in Pennsylvania. That’s not going away.

Clinton’s popular vote is rising. Now we’re waiting for the margins and how big her victory will be in Pennsylvania. This will matter to Clinton, but more importantly, to superdelegates. However, the fact remains that Obama is vulnerable, especially looking towards the general election. Clinton will continue to exploit this fact as they both move towards Indiana.


Can someone ask Hillary Clinton how she intends to secure the nomination? And, have her explain it in real terms — without spin, without obfuscation, without making up new rules and without pretending that she always wanted Michigan and Florida to count.

Hillary can’t tell you how she wins it. She can’t because there is no way she can win the nomination. But, that won’t stop her because she is Hillary Clinton.

Betsy Newmark:

It looks like the result of tonight is that she’ll stay in the race and add in a few more talking points about how she’s won the key swing states that Democrats need for November. But he’s still ahead in delegates and way ahead in money. She can keep at it, but she won’t achieve anything besides roughing up her party’s eventual nominee.

Cartoon by Wright, The Detroit News

  • elrod

    A response on the point about union voters. Many of the union voters going for Clinton were in the Scranton area, where Hillary Clinton claimed a hometown advantage. I don’t think those voters went for he because they’re union so much as she’s the hometown choice among a lot of union members.

  • pacatrue

    What Pennsylvania showed most to me, though I haven’t studied the exit polls in great detail, is that everything is staying the same. Pennsylvania was predicted to go for Clinton weeks ago and it went to Clinton. Before that, Miss. was predicted to go for Obama and it went for Obama. There’s really only been about 2 genuine surprises in the last 15 contests — Wisconsin, for instance. And unless something radical happens, this will continue on. North Carolina will wipe out Clinton’s PA gains. One of them will take Indiana by a very small amount…. And it all ends up with Obama slightly ahead by about 100 delegates.

    But it looks like we’re just going to go on, spending millions upon millions of Democratic dollars to beat up other Democrats, with the pundits continuing to analyze what each margin of victory means, and it all comes out the same.

  • pacatrue

    I just saw a neat stat on the NY Times Results site from the polling data. Of the people who had decided their vote more than three days ago, the votes were almost exactly split between Clinton and Obama (51/49, which is likely within margin of error, but probably real considering the results). Of those who decided within the last three days, they went 56/44, which is almost exactly the margin of victory. So, as Joe wrote about a couple days ago, the undecideds broke for Clinton just as in Ohio.

    There’s another interesting result in there. In both Texas and Ohio, about 20% of voters thought that the race or gender of the candidate was important. This is matched in PA. In all three states, those who thought gender was important voted more for Clinton. However, it was a 60/40 split in the earlier two states, while a full 71% in PA went with Clinton. Hints that gender as an even bigger player in PA than previously. One difference between TX and OH was that, for the “race is important” people, they split evenly in Texas, while they went with Clinton in Ohio. Pennsylvania followed the Ohio pattern. If race of the candidate was important, they went with Clinton.

    But all that said, the most important difference seems to be economics. 55% of PA voters said the economy was the number one issue and they broke significantly for Clinton. Similarly, non-union voters split evenly between the two, but if they were in a union, they broke heavily for Clinton. Obama is going to need to work on his economic message.

  • superdestroyer

    If Senator Obama was less gung ho for open borders and unlimited immigration, less infatuated with social engineering, and less an elitist in his personal lifestyle he would have won a larger percentage of the blue collar white vote and would have, to use the term de jure, closed the deal by know.

    However, I guess that many of those blue collar whites in PA realized that a massive increase in the size of the government coupled with huge entitlement increases along with open borders and an administration filled with social engineer wannabes will be a vary bad deal for them.

    It is amazing that Senator Obama does best with people who do not fill out the 1040 long form (the young and blacks) and with those who pay others to complete their tax forms. Senator Obama seems to do worst with people who make enough money to fill out a huge number of tax forms but do not make enough to be able to afford an accountant.

  • runasim


    Hint: Obama is not running as a xenophobe.
    That should clarify what amazes you.

  • superdestroyer


    Obama is running as a defacto open borders, unlimited immigration proponent. That is why the elite whites vote for him. They are the least negatively impacted by unlimited immigration. However, middle class and blue collar whites are negatively impacted by unlimited immigration. They voted abotu 70% against Senator Obama.

    Maybe Senator Obama should listen to the Democratic voters and scale back on his support for entitlement spending, drivers licenses, free tuition, etc for illegal immigrants.

    Also, maybe Senator Obama should spend a little more time talking about improving academic learning in the U.S. and a little less time talking about diversity, social engineering, and the dumbing down of Americans.

  • pyronite

    I like how he loses one race on April 23, 2008, in which none of those things were even mentioned, in which Hillary Clinton holds many of the same beliefs, yet you still assign blame to those things.


  • superdestroyer


    The Nation would disagree with you about immigration not being an issue.

  • skippy

    i would disagree w/the nation on anything substantial, including whether the opinions found in the nation are of any importance whatsoever.

    as to hillary’s question, why can’t obama close the deal, one might ask the same about her.