Sure, Hillary Clinton needs a big win Tuesday in Pennsylvania. But what, exactly does that mean?
Here’s an all-purpose, everything-you-need-to-know look at the Pennsylvania primary and the overall race for the Democratic nomination.
Delegates at stake
Pennsylvania will award 158 pledged delegates based on the primary results. Of that amount 55 will be allocated based on the statewide results, and the remaining 103 delegates will be distributed based on results in each of the state’s 19 congressional districts.
Clinton’s lead over Barack Obama has been running at about 5 percentage points. That’s generally within the margin of sampling error, and it’s down considerably from the 10- to 15-point margin she held during February and March. Two polls released Monday showed Clinton with leads of 7 points and 10 points.
Turnout: Up, up, up — including Republicans
(Staff Writer Bob von Sternberg contibutes this section on turnout.)
One big number — 300,000-plus — looms over the Pennsylvania primary. That’s how many newly-registered Democrats have been added to the voting rolls since the beginning of the year.
Nearly half were first-time voters joining the party, and slightly more than half are voters who switched their registration from Republican or independent to Democratic, allowing them to vote in the Democratic primary.
A recent poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall College shows nearly two in three (62%) of the new voters plan to vote for Obama.
In the five-county Philadelphia region, the Democrats gained 140,000 voters and the Republicans lost 42,000 over the last year. An analysis published by the New Republic found that about half of the newly-registered Democrats live in those counties, which are heavily African-American and home to affluent, college-educated voters. That makes the region “fertile ground for Obama,” the analysis concluded.
The state voted Republican for president in 1980 and 1984 (Reagan) and 1988 (Bush). But it has voted Democratic since then: 1992 and 1996 (Clinton), 2000 (Gore) and 2004 (Kerry).
Its governor is a Democrat — Ed Rendell — and it has a Republican senator — Arlen Specter — and a Democratic senator — Bob Casey.
Obama likely will do well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but many suburban areas and rural counties have the type of demographics that favor Clinton — heavily white, blue collar, older, Catholic, Reagan Democrats.
For Clinton: 15 of the state’s superdelegates, including Gov. Rendell and Rep. John Murtha, have endorsed her. She also received the endorsement of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned by conservative Richard Scaife.
For Obama: 5 superdelegates, including Sen. Casey. Newspapers include the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Allentown Morning Call.
Population: 12.4 million
Urban population: 77%
The delegate battle
Obama leads with 1,645 delegates to Clinton’s 1,507. The magic number for nomination is 2,025.
Clinton still leads among superdelegates, but Obama has dramatically cut into her margin among this group. For example, on the eve of Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), Clinton had 86 more delegates than Obama (213 to 127). Now, she leads by only 26 (257 to 231). Put another way: since Super Tuesday, Obama has won the support of 104 superdelegates while Clinton has added only 44 more to her total.
An Ohio comparison
It’s obvious that Clinton needs a big win in Pennsylvania. But what would that mean in terms of delegates?
For comparison, look back at Ohio, which was a big win for Clinton on March 4. She won the primary by 10 points — 54 percent to 44 percent. That translated into nine more delegates for her than for Obama — 74 delegates for Clinton to 65 delegates for Obama.
So, if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by, say, 10 points, it likely would earn her 10 to 20 more delegates than Obama (depending on the margins in each of the congressional districts). That won’t make an appreciable difference in the overall delegate count. But a big margin of victory gives her more reason to persevere and hope that the delegate trend grows in her favor and that Obama’s troubles (Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his “bitter” comment) are more serious than her’s (Bosnia sniper fire).
Exactly how big a win does Clinton need?
John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics says that a narrow win (by 2 to 4 points) would doom her. He expects she’ll remain in the race if she has a modest win (6-9 points) and she’ll have a real chance of turning the nomination battle around if she wins by 10 points or more — because it will fuel doubts about Obama’s ability to win key blue collar states like Ohio.
Toby Harnden, Washginton editor for the British Daily Telegraph, lists 10 reasons why Obama might squeak out a win Tuesday.
A Philadelphia City Paper blog predicts Obama by 5 points.
The Boston Globe notes that recent polls show that about 10 percent of likely voters remain undecided, and that could favor Clinton, because she holds an edge over Obama in winning those late-breakers.
The polls close at 7 p.m. Central (8 p.m. EST).
Next up — the Guam Territorial caucuses are Saturday, May 3. Guam will pick four delegates to the national convention. Then on Tuesday, May 6, Indiana (72 delegates) and North Carolina (115)
What do you think will happen on Tuesday — and afterwards?
Sources: AP, Almanac of American Politics, New York Times