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Friday, March 14, 2008

Democratic Primary Standings, Trends, and the Ferraro Strategy

As the days, weeks, and primaries pass, Hillary Clinton has seen a steadily widening gap between herself and Barack Obama. Here is a look at the pledged delegate standings as of each Wednesday since the Iowa Caucus.

January 9 - Obama +1 (25-24)
January 16 - Obama +1 (25-24)
January 23 - Obama +2 (38-36)
January 30 - Obama +15 (63-48)
February 6 - Obama +37 (910-873)
February 13 - Obama +141 (1141-1000)
February 20 - Obama +159 (1197-1038)
February 27 - Obama +159 (1197-1038)
March 5 - Obama +153 (1379-1226)
March 12 - Obama +160 (1405-1245) (Current pledged delegate count)

This trend does not bode well for Clinton when examining the Democratic Primary projections. Obama is winning the short-term, mid-term, and long-term pattern. The deeper the primary gets, the wider his lead.

What's worse for Clinton is that as the states and delegates steadily go to Obama, her grip on superdelegates loosens. Through February 5th's Super Tuesday, her superdelegate lead was, by most counts, over a hundred. This lead kept her in the overall delegate lead, which in turn buoyed her popular vote numbers and delegate count.

However, for the balance of February after Super Tuesday, Obama ran off 12 straight contests. His lead in states, popular vote, and most importantly, pledged delegates, gradually grew. Concurrently, thanks to this success, he chipped away at Clinton's superdelegate stranglehold, which by most counts is now about 30 to 40, which puts his overall lead at approximately 120-130.

The horserace coverage that plagues all primaries has clearly produced a runaway effect in favor of Obama. The more he wins, the more he wins.

What clearly compounds Clinton's steady loss of ground is that there is so little time remaining in the Democratic Primary. It becomes increasingly difficult for her to make up the ground, especially as she falls further behind with all but three primaries since Super Tuesday. She needs to win almost all of the rest, and she cannot wait any longer to do so. Here are the ten remaining primaries:

April 22 - Pennsylvania - 158
May 3 - Guam - 4
May 6 - Indiana - 72
May 6 - North Carolina - 115
May 13 - West Virginia - 28
May 20 - Kentucky - 51
May 20 - Oregon - 52
June 1 - Puerto Rico - 55
June 3 - Montana - 16
June 3 - South Dakota - 15
Total remaining pledged delegates - 566

For Clinton to overcome Obama's 160 pledged delegate lead, she must win 363 remaining pledged delegates to Obama's 203, or 64% to Obama's 36%. She must out-delegate Obama by 203 of the remaining 566 delegates, after Obama needed 2,650 delegates to build up a lead of 160. Clinton must do this with less money, momentum, media support, and moxie than her opponent.

That is not happening.

Winning Pennsylvania by anything less than 20 points will not be enough, and Obama has always shown that he closes well in a state if given enough time to do so. Realistically and optimistically, she wins Pennsylvania by 10 points, which will translate to 14-18 delegates (I'll go with 16). If she only clears 16 delegates in the biggest state remaining out of 10, it is not remotely realistic that she erases the 160 delegate deficit.

What makes this all the more pressing for Camp Clinton is that she cannot count on superdelegates to be her saving grace. If Barack Obama wins the state count (clinched - 26 as of Mississippi), the popular vote (close - 13.2 million to 12.6 million, not including unreleased totals from the Iowa, Nevada, Washington and Maine Caucuses, all of which Obama won), and the pledged delegates (looks solid - see above), then there is simply no way the superdelegates would overturn the decision made by the voters. It would be a surprise if Clinton even allowed them to do so, despite what many Clinton-haters might imply.

Therefore, to turn the tide, it is absolutely necessary that the Clinton campaign makes a huge splash. Again, winning Pennsylvania is not enough. She has to change the entire feel of the campaign.

Such a massive shift in momentum will only occur if a massive block of voters decide on Clinton. This usually happens when a particular demographic starts trending in a new direction, like the youth and blacks to Obama, the less-educated and women to Clinton. These solidified trends are another problem for her. It seems as if so many voters have made up their minds. The exit polls from state to state show similar voter inclinations. How can she change the minds of multiple demographics, or, if only one demographic, a large one?

The difficulty level is high. As I wrote on Wednesday, any Clinton stump speech or "leaked" campaign memo that specifically recruits a large demographic runs the serious risk of alienating other demographics. Remembering that she needs to win 65% of the remaining delegates, she cannot afford to hemorrhage too much support from any other areas.

So she needed someone else to take the fall. It had to be someone notable, not an unheard underling of the Clinton campaign. It had to be someone with influence, experience, and the ability to articulate an issue that would strike a chord with many Americans. However, it could not be be someone too close to Hillary (Bill, Chelsea, top-tier staffers), nor someone who is in political office. It also had to be someone trustworthy; someone that had a history with the American people.

It had to be - had to be - Geraldine Ferraro.

The target demographic was white voters. They have always broken towards Clinton, but not nearly by the margin that black voters break towards Obama. (The reasons for this I will leave to psychologists and cynics.) However, despite the country being 73% white and 13% black, the Democratic Party is not nearly so.

In states like Mississippi or South Carolina, African-American voters make up about 50% of the vote in the Democratic Primary. Of those black voters, close to 90% have gone to Obama. In Mississippi for example, he won 91% of blacks while she won 70% of whites. (As I've said before, I'm not here to comment on the despicable split, just what it means in the race.) In a state that is mostly white, she would win with those numbers. In a state with an even split, he trounces, as he did in Mississippi.

Ferraro's comments - that Obama is doing so well because he is black - are meant for white voters to take a step back and examine whether that is true or not. The Clinton strategy is that if some part of the white voter thinks Ferraro's comments have validity, they will try to counteract the trend by supporting the white candidate, if for no other reason than to make it fair. If Clinton wins a few hundred thousand whites this way, it might be enough to swing the national popular vote to her favor, and close the ground in pledged delegates enough to give superdelegates a reason to vote for her by the convention.

Predictably, Ferraro stepped down from her honorary post with the Clinton campaign. Clinton could have fired her immediately, but that would have ended the story far too quickly. So Ferraro resigned, but her message - especially with the media hype that came with it - may have sunk into some white voters.

We have nearly six weeks before the next primary, but polling will be revealed in the weeks to come. Keep an eye on the demographics. If Clinton's white support climbs, her mission was accomplished, and there is still an avenue for a Hillary Clinton nomination.


Back Monday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mississippi Racism and Where This Is Going

Barack Obama's win in the Mississippi Primary was decidedly unsurprising. Mississippi is the state with the highest percentage of African-Americans with 36%, and 91% of those voted for Obama. (A number that shocked me: 70% of registered Democrats in Mississippi are black.) He rode the massive support of African Americans and the limited support (21%) from the white community to a resounding 61-37 victory, a 24-point margin.

The margin of victory produced a net delegate gain of 6 for Obama, winning Mississippi's delegates 17 to 11. Combined with Saturday's Wyoming victory and Obama's victory in the Texas Caucus, Obama has net enough delegates in the last week to overcome Hillary Clinton's win on March 4th.

Now we get to the updated delegate count.
Pledged delegates: 1,404 - 1,243 (Obama +161)
Superdelegates: 237-207 (Clinton +30)
Total delegates: 1,611 - 1,480 (Obama + 131)

As the weeks have passed since February 5th, Barack Obama has slowly but surely padded his pledged and overall delegate lead. Moreover, as he continues to extend his lead in total delegates, popular vote, and pledge delegates, he is getting an influx of commitments from superdelegates, while Clinton's number has remained stagnant. This compounds the damage towards the Clinton campaign every time Obama wins a state.

Even a 10-point win in Pennsylvania will not be enough and Camp Clinton knows that. Therefore, a huge shakeup is necessary. The tone and timbre must be drastically altered without it seeming as if the Clinton campaign is panicked. They continue to steadily sink in the quicksand of politics, but to struggle could speed the process.

In order to win, they need to reach out to an enormous base. They need to ensure the turnout of that enormous base. Through this, they need to win nearly every remaining state, not just Pennsylvania. If successful, they hope that the shift in momentum back to Clinton is in time for the superdelegates to reasonably commit to Clinton, which will keep her in the ballgame until they figure out what to do with Florida and Michigan. Importantly, to avoid the quicksand effect, they must do all of this through subterfuge and misdirection.

Enter Geraldine Ferraro.

Explanation Friday. (Yes, Friday.) See you then.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mississippi Polls and Predictions

As predicted, Wyoming was enough to get Barack Obama back on track. All it took was the least populous state in the union and Hillary Clinton has once again lost momentum. This turnaround is evidenced by two Mississippi polls, taken over the last four days, each by Insider Advantage.

Thursday, March 6th
Obama - 46
Clinton - 40
Obama +6.0

Sunday, March 9th
Obama - 54
Clinton - 37
Obama +17.0

The parameters of the two polls were nearly identical. Both took place over the course of only one day. Both only questioned "likely voters." Only two days after Clinton's March 4th triumph, she had closed a double-digit gap in most Mississippi polls to single digits, as shown with the Insider Advantage poll from March 6th. However, after Obama's Wyoming victory on Saturday, Insider Advantage's Sunday poll had Obama's lead grow 11 points to 17. With the media once again covering Obama as a winner, no matter how insignificant a narrow 7-to-5 delegate win seemed to be, the momentum shifted back to Obama and the people fell for it. It was horserace coverage as its finest.

Insider Advantage is not the only poll that has Obama slated to win big tonight. Here are two more:

American Research Group 3/5 - 3/6
Obama - 58
Clinton - 34
Obama +24.0
Rasmussen 3/5
Obama - 53
Clinton - 39
Obama +14.0

Both of these polls have Obama up by double-digits, and both were completed after Clinton's March 4th victories. The average of the two has Obama with a 19 point advantage.

Finally here are the averages of all four major polls:

Average of the four polls:
Obama - 53
Clinton - 38
Difference - Obama +15

Mississippi is his. Now, let's be careful about Obama's Mississippi dominance projecting delegates down the road. It does not necessarily translate to the subsequent eight states and two territories remaining in the Democratic Primary. Where Mississippi goes, the country does not, which is probably something that people on the west coast and northeast are thankful for. Just as there are reasons why Obama wins caucuses, let us not forget his dominance in states with a strong African-American turnout. Call it the South Carolina effect. In those Mississippi polls, the American Research Group poll found that he had 87% of the African-American vote. In the Rasmussen poll, he had 80%.

Regardless of the reason for Barack Obama's victory in the state, Mississippi will serve its purpose for the Obama campaign. It will be yet another state in the win column for Obama, something he will continue to use in his stump speeches. He will pad his lead by winning 18-20 of the state's 33 delegates. It will bring him a little closer to Clinton in Pennsylvania polls, though, like Ohio, she will probably hold onto her lead there. However, if through winning Wyoming and Mississippi he keeps it close in Penn, all Clinton can realistically pull off on April 22nd is to win back the delegates she lost in Wyoming and Mississippi.

And then we wait until May, though the writing will be on the wall for Camp Clinton. Frankly, it already is.

Back tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Attacking Obama

(IC's editor's note: Today's blog was contributed by my friend, Saj Pothiawala. He writes for the entertaining NewsGroper, a website with the self-explanatory subtitle, "These Blogs are Not Real." The website features many authors who adopt the role of a celebrity and write first-person musings from the celebrity's perspective. Saj, whom I've known since high school and have always regarded a far more talented writer than me, earned the role of Barack Obama, and you can imagine that these days there is no more talked about name in America, with the possible exception of God.

I was going to give you some background on why he was contributing today, but he actually covered it in his introduction. Suffice it to say that it has been quite difficult for me to dig up enough dirt on Obama to write too negatively about him. I could nitpick with Tony Rezko, when Obama has been cleared of any wrongdoing in that regard, or the fact that if Obama were trailing in the delegate count, he probably would not discourage superdelegates to overturn the decision like his campaign is now. But the fact of the matter is, there is not a lot to dislike or criticize about Barack Obama. He is a clean slate. Maybe, in the end, it is the clean slate status that is both his biggest strength and his biggest weakness, which I will surely revisit down the road, especially if he garners the nomination.

Anyway, on to Saj's post. I'll be back tomorrow with a Mississippi Primary preview and delegate projections. - IC)


Ian has, for a while now, been grappling with a problem: the possibility of an Obama bias in his postings. Yesterday he emailed me and said, “I can't find enough dirt on Obama to write against him.” And I nodded my head. There’s not much out there. (For the record, I don’t believe Ian’s writing is biased in any way. Objectivity calls only for equal consideration, not for equal treatment.)

So Ian deferred to me to bash the good Senator as best I can. I accepted at first. But how can I turn a critical eye on the man I wrote this about just about a year ago on this blog? That’s far from within the standards of “blournalistic” integrity (I can do it too, Diablo Cody) Ian keeps on PPFA. I mean, I can’t get enough of Obama. If the mole-hill sized mountains we’re seeing made of the NAFTA-Canada issue and Obama’s links to Rezko are the only skeletons sticking their bony fingers out of Barack’s closet, then I’m over the moon. Hillary probably tours with a second charter jet just to carry all her baggage, not to mention her husband’s 180 from asset to albatross on the campaign trail. (BILL TANGENT: Now, I’m not judging Bill Clinton on the fact that he screwed around with an intern, but by all accounts he received oral sex from the young Ms. Lewinsky in his office. It can take A LOT of time to coax a woman into giving you oral sex at work, even for a man as facile with women as Bill- time he didn’t spend running the nation.)

So what to do? I’ve been commissioned with a task I feel I am incapable of completing. Lucky for me (and you) I was walking down the street the other day and I found a copy of the following internal memorandum from the Republican Party. Enjoy:

Date: March 8, 2008
To: All Users; Richard Nixon, The exhumed corpse of;
From: Snarlax, Supreme Overload and Immortal Soulcrusher of the Republican Party
Subject: Barack Obama


The purpose of this memorandum is to make the party aware of a growing threat in the form of Barack Obama. Most of you are asleep on this issue, but let’s nip this thing in the bud; Snarlax grows weary of him. Yesterday, Snarlax brainstormed a few things we can work on:

- Obama, in his books, has mentioned some youthful indiscretions involving explicit drug use. Now, even Snarlax had his share of fun back in his day, but there has to be something we can do here. Newt, take a look at this, but be careful- drugs are a sensitive issue considering the guy we have in office right now snorted his way through at least one of his terms as governor.
- Hillary’s been doing a lot of the legwork on the “Obama is a Muslim” front but let’s not drop the torch when she hands it off to us, okay? Keep running with this, maybe photoshop him in Gaza with a rocket launcher or something. Be creative. And while you’re at it, change “madrassa” to “Hitler-inspired jihadi death training” in the story about the school he attended in Indonesia.

- On a related note, Snarlax does not know if he can adequately stress the importance of Obama's name being only one letter removed from Osama’s. We need more slips of the tongue, people, more slips of the tongue. If anyone has any questions, Mitt can give them a hand.

- Again, related note: did anyone know that his middle name is “Hussein”? Snarlax literally just found out. If you knew that and didn’t tell Snarlax, shame on you. This is exactly the type of sloppiness we can ill afford.

- Forget about the “experience” stuff and leave his “Change” mantra be, we won’t get the kind of mileage out of it that we’d like. Plus, Snarlax sorta likes that will.i.am video.

- Last, but not least, he’s black. How are people forgetting this? Don’t let them.

This isn’t amateur hour, it’s the f****** Republican Party. Snarlax runs a tight ship so shape up, please.

Sincerely,

Snarlax, Supreme Overload and Immortal Soulcrusher of the Republican Party
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