Clinton Wins, But Dynamics of the Race Stay Same
After six long weeks of rock 'em, sock 'em campaigning and countless negative ads, Pennsylvania voters went to the polls Tuesday. The result: Little has changed in the race between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton was expected to win the state's Democratic primary. And she did. She was expected to do well with women and older voters and blue-collar households. And she did. Obama kept his demographic coalition together as well, winning the votes of African-Americans, young people and the more educated and affluent.
"What Ohio and Pennsylvania have shown is that [Obama] has a serious problem with white, working-class Democrats," said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Brown says this may hurt Obama in the general election if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
"If he has a serious problem with white, working-class Democrats, how do you think he'll do with white, working-class independents and white, working-class soft Republicans?" Brown says.
Despite Clinton's 10 percent margin of victory, the delegate math may not change much for her. Because of the way the Democratic Party divvies up the state's 158 pledged delegates, she is likely to get perhaps 10 or 12 more than Obama. Before Pennsylvania, he had an edge of more than 160 pledged delegates.
So it's on to North Carolina and Indiana. Both states vote on May 6, and together they offer nearly 30 more delegates than were at stake in Pennsylvania. North Carolina's demographics favor Obama. He leads in the polls there by an average of about 20 percentage points. Indiana, however, is a toss-up, and was the next campaign stop for both candidates.
Before heading to Indiana, Clinton thanked her supporters at a victory party in Philadelphia for a strong showing that allows her to stay in the race for the Democratic nomination. Eight contests remain through June 3.
"I'm in this race for you, to fight for everyone who's ever been counted out," Clinton told a cheering crowd of supporters. She added that "the American people don't quit, and they deserve a president that doesn't quit, either."
"Because of you, the tide is turning," Clinton added.
The New York senator noted that she won in Pennsylvania despite being outspent substantially by Obama. So she wasted no time in appealing to her supporters for funds, telling them to log on to her Web site and contribute.
"Tonight more than ever," she said, "I need your help to continue this journey. ... The future of this campaign is in your hands."
She left the stage to the strains of John Mellencamp's "This is Our Country." Meanwhile, the real Mellencamp was playing at an Obama rally in Evansville, Ind.
Obama congratulated Clinton on her victory. Perhaps referring to the negativity of the Pennsylvania campaign, he added, "It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics; the bickering that none of us are immune to, and that trivializes the profound issues — two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril."
"We're here," the Illinois senator added, "because we can't afford to keep doing what we've been doing for another four years. We can't afford to play the same Washington games with the same Washington players and expect a different result."
In the days leading up to the contest, the candidates unleashed increasingly nasty attack ads.
Clinton released a television ad in which an announcer says, "It's the toughest job in the world," as images of the White House, Osama bin Laden, Hurricane Katrina and the attack on Pearl Harbor appear on the screen. "Who do you think has what it takes?" it asks.
Obama's campaign countered with its own advertisement, "He Has What It Takes." It characterizes Obama as someone who does not use fear to "divide us." He has argued that Clinton's ads play to the "politics of fear."
The Long Campaign
Political analysts are divided over the impact of a campaign that looks likely to last through the final contests on June 3. Democratic Party officials worry that the protracted race may be wounding both candidates in the eyes of voters.
On balance ... this prolonged Democratic fight is a good thing for [presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John] McCain," said Dan Schnur, a GOP strategist who was McCain's communications director during his 2000 presidential bid. "But there is no question," added Schnur, "the one downside for him is that he is going to face a much better-prepared and better-tested opponent in the general election."
But many veteran Democrats, such as strategist Bill Carrick, would like to see the Clinton-Obama duel come to an end.
"If I had a magic wand, I would end it," Carrick said, "because I think this gets to be kind of like a fourth overtime in a basketball game. The players are exhausted; they're going to make mistakes. A lot of people in the Democratic Party would like to ...start preparing for the general election."
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