Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So Much on So Little

I have to say, I am thrilled that Pennsylvania is finally voting. It seems like an age since the last primary or caucus, and the press has already shown it has the attention span of a three-year old and that without the immediate specter of horse races to analyze or polls to parse, it will mindlessly pursue the first shiny object that catches its attention. So, if only for giving us a temporary respite from questions like "Is Rev. Jeremiah Wright as patriotic as Barack Obama?" (wtf?), thank you Pennsylvania.

That being said, this is a totally meaningless primary. There is no likely outcome which could seriously change the dynamics of the race.

Let's break it down. Barring something cataclysmic, Clinton cannot win the Democratic primary. She is expected to win Pennsylvania solidly, but the models all have incorporated that prediction and it isn't enough. A huge win -- say, 25 points -- might qualify as cataclysmic, but that's not going to happen. On the reverse side, while most people consider anything less than a 7-point win for Clinton to be a mortal wound to her campaign, she's not going to withdraw after winning Pennsylvania, so even a narrow victory won't push her out. Obama would have to score an exceedingly improbable upset (or maybe lose by just 1 or 2 points) for there to be any hope of Clinton exiting the race.

In absence of those two exceedingly unlikely scenario, the state of the Democratic race will be the exact same tomorrow as it was yesterday: Clinton remains in with only a negligible shot to win. Never has so much been said about a race with such little import.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It was sort of frustrating when I realized that the Pennsylvania primary will probably not solve anything. Working through the scenarios in my mind, I came to pretty much the same conclusion. The only possible decisive outcome would be if Obama has an out-and-out win tonight (by any margin whatsoever) - Clinton may not pull out immediately but the pressure would proably be too great for even her bullheadedness to ignore at that point. However, the chances of Obama actually winning in Pennsylvania are exceedingly slight (not impossible, but I would be very surprised).

Then there's the possibility of a "slight" win by Clinton i.e. low-single-digits. Even as I am typing this, the Clinton campaign is spinning the idea on TV that "a win is a win, no matter what the margin". I feel whether Clinton wins by 1 point or 20 points, the Clinton spin machine will paint the rosiest of pictures possible, declare it a stunning victory, and move onwards.

However, if the margin of victory is small, we will start to hear those questions in the media once again, about 'when will Clinton pull out?'. These same questions we were hearing voiced out loud a few weeks ago, before Rev. Wright popped onto the radar. Enough pressure to get Clinton to bow out? Highly unlikely, but those nagging questions could play into Indiana.

More likely, in my opinion, is a high-single-digit to low-double-digit win by Clinton (my personal prediction is between 8 and 12 points). In that case, pretty much nothing changes much, both campaigns spin the results, and move on to Indiana and North Carolina. Sort of like the groundhog seeing his shadow.

I have no idea what will happen if Pennsylvania turns into a Clinton blowout (say, 15 to 20 points or more). But no one is predicting that, so I discount it. Sure would be an interesting game-changer, though.

Anyway, I am also not excepting much in terms of concrete decisions coming out of tonight's results. Seven weeks ago, Pennsylvania was viewed at the next 'finish line' in the race; now it's just another bump in the road, like every other state before it.