Politically Savvy Friends

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On to Pennsylvania

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Pennsylvania, here we come.

The morning after Super Duper Tuesday leaves only one conclusion – it’s not over ‘til it’s over – and it ain’t over yet.

That is certainly true for the Democrats, where Barack Obama won the most states but Hillary Clinton won the most delegates and bragging rights to California, where one out of eight Americans live. But neither candidate is even half-way there to the 2,025 delegates needed to nominate, with (depending on whose numbers you use) Clinton at 825 and Obama at 732 and John Edwards still has his 26. One caveat: the delegate numbers are not all in yet from Super Tuesday.

The Republicans seem to have conferred “front runner” status on John McCain, and he now has more than half the delegates needed to win the GOP nomination. He has been helped tremendously by the split between his opponents: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and even Ron Paul. With conservatives deeply divided, the more liberal (on a few things) McCain has taken advantage. Today, McCain has 615 delegates, Romney has 268, Huckabee has 169, and Paul has 16. It takes 1,191 to nominate.

While, arguably, McCain has it in the bag, unless GOP conservatives anoint one of the two main challengers, the Democratic race is wide open – and that increases the likelihood that Pennsylvania with its April primary just might have a seat at the decision-making table.

Here’s what to expect next.

This Saturday, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington elect a total of 205 delegates followed by Maine on Sunday with 38 delegates. Next Tuesday, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia choose 240 delegates. Hawaii, Washington, and Wisconsin (with a total 121 delegates) vote on Tuesday, February 19.

If one candidate really dominates the other through this process, then it is mathematically possible for the winner to come close to nomination with a sweep on Tuesday, March 4. But don’t count on it. That’s when two biggies, Ohio and Texas, vote along with Rhode Island and Vermont. On that date, 444 delegates will be chosen.

After that, there’s only Wyoming and Misissippi in March before the April 22 Pennsylvania Primary.

Assuming a continued deadlock on the Democratic side, Pennsylvania with the fourth largest number of delegates (188) at the 2008 Democratic Convention will be the decider. If not, in May, voters in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia will have the last say. And, of course, if neither Obama or Clinton have 2,025 delegates by then, it’s on to a “brokered” convention.

The battle in Pennsylvania will be intense. Earlier polls have had Clinton leading Obama by 20 points, but nobody believes that’s true today. Clinton enjoys strong support from Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a rising African American star, while Obama has support from U.S. Reps. Chaka Fattah and Patrick Murphy (both in the Philadelphia area) and former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, a long-time Kennedy protégé. Most of PA’s members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, have made no endorsement. Last night, Casey told me he was not likely to endorse anyone before the primary.

Like most states, PA has a convoluted way of apportioning its 188 delegates with the majority of delegates determined by the vote in each of the 19 congressional delegates. Rendell, Casey, and the 11 Democratic members of Congress are “super delegates”, along with the state’s members of the Democratic National Committee. After the primary, more delegates will be chosen among other leading elected officials (like mayors, statewide officials, and county executives), as well as others to secure gender and racial balance, but these delegates will be pledged to support Clinton or Obama, depending on their vote in the state. If it sounds complicated, it is.

What is not complicated to understand is that Pennsylvania is up for grabs for the first time since 1976 when Democrats gave Jimmy Carter the edge over Morris Udall. Both candidates have been in this state over the past year, but always to raise money. Clinton has not been in Pittsburgh in more than a year or so, although she was in Philadelphia recently to get endorsed by Rendell and Nutter. Obama’s last trek to this part of the state was last year to raise money when he got some notoriety for meeting with the local press for exactly 120 seconds. All that is likely to change, especially after the March 4 contests.

Pennsylvania, with its six media markets and very diverse population, is not an easy state to traverse. But voters here like retail politics, whether it’s gobbling down a Philly cheesesteak or having an IC light and Primanti’s sandwich here in the ‘Burgh, and the smart candidate (and both Clinton and Obama are smart) does more than just a quick airport media stop.

While one of the two Democrats could “suspend” his or her campaign before the April 22 primary, I’m betting not. The road to the presidential convention in Denver clearly leads through the Keystone State, and Pennsylvania voters are waiting to be courted!

If you have any thoughts or comments, please email me at delano.jon@gmail.com. And let me know what you’re hearing out there on the political trail.


Bram Reichbaum said...

It's such a tightrope.

Now I'm hearing that Clinton needs to win Ohio and Texas, and basically WAIL on Obama in one of those states ... but only one. That seems to be the magic formula for getting all that money -- I mean political attention -- flowing into Pennsylvania.

TonyTheTiger said...

C'mon, Delano, for a guy purporting to be a university academic, political commentator and observer of the American scene -- at least the electoral scene, you can not seriously believe or contend the truth of the following words you wrote: "In Pennsylvania, Obama won one-third of the white vote and Clinton won 10% of the black vote. Clearly, these voters disregarded race"????
Have you missed the obvious -- that many of the Obama supporters -- the White ones -- are from the smart set, the oh-so-trendy and progressive wealthy suburbs and that swarmed to Obama precisely because of his race? Whether that choice was made for "good" racially biased reasons or not, it is a clear and obvious truth. The issue of race is a far more subtle and complex -- and not always malignant -- issue than that simple and knee jerk "analysis" suggests. And it is not just the White vote. Recall Michelle's early campaign assertions that Blacks would not support a Black candidate because they did not believe one could win. Did that account for any of the 10% that went for Clinton? Or is that just the standard 10% that goes against the grain in each election?