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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Keystones

The long hiaitus in Democratic primary voting is finally over, as voters troop to the polls in PA today. MSNBC’s First Read has a reasonably good assessment of the range of likely results, which will only have a big impact on the nomination contest if Barack Obama pulls off an upset win (which would be as big a blow to the polling industry as HRC’s win in NH), or if HRC wins by a bigger margin than in Ohio (i.e., by double digits). A very narrow Clinton win would produce the most intense spin wars, since most polls predict a high-single-digit margin for her. Even with a comfortable but not overwhelming victory in PA, she’s unlikely to make any significant net gains in pledged delegates, though she could shave Obama’s (roughly) 700,000 lead in the cumulative popular vote by somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000.
If you’re planning to watch the network/cable coverage of the primary results tonight, expect a lot of talk (particularly if there is a significant gap in time between the release of exit poll data and the “calling” of the state) about Obama’s relative performance among various categories of white voters–those without college educations, Catholics, Appalachians, etc., etc.–perhaps with comparisons to his numbers in Ohio. Another good bet is a lot of confused discussion about the cumulative popular vote totals, which will vary from count to count based on all sorts of definitional factors. And yet another lead-pipe cinch will be close scrutiny of exit poll data about the alleged willingness of Clinton and Obama voters in PA to desert the party in November if their candidate does not get the nomination. (Note, however, the TDS staff post earlier today pointing to historical evidence that such defections rarely happen in big numbers, whatever voters say months away from the general election.)
While it may not get much media attention unless the numbers are really surprising, total turnout–generally expected to be in the neighborhood of a record 2 million–will be interesting, not just in terms of the possible impact on the Clinton-Obama competition, but as a reflection of (a) the year-long national trend towards a significant expansion of Democratic registration, and/or (b) the existence or absence of “voter fatigue,” which some observers expect as a product of the increasingly negative nature of the contest, or of television ad over-saturation. The weather, described this morning by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “a near perfect spring day…across the Keystone State,” certainly won’t depress turnout.
Stay tuned here for updates tonight as developments warrant. We’ll try to add some value to the media chatter.

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