April 23, 2008
POLITICS: Negative Momentum
The bottom line on last night's Pennsylvania primary is, on the surface, what it has been for a while: Obama has the lead, but he has serious problems reaching Hillary's voters, and the voting results seem to support the notion that who wins and loses is determined less by events than by hardened demographic facts; Hillary has arguments about how she's a better general election candidate, but she's probably running out of forums in which to press them. I still think there's no way she can get the superdelegates to give her the nomination; even if were to up and decide en masse that Obama is by far the weaker general election candidate (a point that remains fiercely debatable), he represents three factions of the party (African-American voters, hard-left anti-war activists, and young people with little or no prior voting history) who are most likely to react poorly to the perception that their candidate won at the polls but was sold out in a back room deal. And at that point, the long-term damage to the party from backing Hillary will outweigh considerations of who could win this one.
That said, the Democrats do have to worry that to the extent that momentum is at all discernible in this race, their likely nominee has essentially negative momentum. Obama has faced the voters in seven states in the past 60 days, and here are the popular vote counts:
Obama can probably still run out the clock, but he's going to end with the worst run-up to the convention since Gerald Ford in 1976. And the real finish line, of course, is in November.
I would think Obama ought to still win, assuming his firewall in North Carolina holds up. I don't think he can really afford to lose all the remaining races, though.
I'm assuming, as I think everyone is, that he wins NC, a state where most of the Democrats are black or college-town liberals. He should similarly win OR, SD & MT, more states where the middle-class and blue-collar white people are almost all Republicans. But I assume he loses WV, KY and PR (he could really get crushed in the popular vote in PR). Leaving aside Guam, Indiana seems to be the only state left where there's really a question, and Indiana is much more like the states Hillary has won. I expect that 440,000 number to get much larger by June 3.
Crank, putting aside your comments about negative momentum, I think your take on the superdelegates is correct. It would be a disaster for them to hand the nomination to Clinton, who simply cannot catch up in pledged delegates given the few races remaining. She gets pounded in NC also. The superdels would have to be convinced overwhelmingly that she is overwhelmingly the better general candidate to risk the long term damage of nominating her....in short, absent a severed head being found in his closet, that's not going to happen. Your take on the rest of the primaries , including the toss up nature of Indiana, is also essentially correct.
Hillary is playing out the string to see if Obama makes the blunder of all blunders (or if Rezko or some other scandal blows everything up). I don't know what the odds are, but I think there is a chance that her number could still come in. She may very well have hints of something that could haunt him.