Clinton's Pennsylvania victory gives campaign new life
A convincing win spurs the fight forward, but does little to close the gap in delegate count with Obama.
With a solid win in the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton has breathed new life into her presidential campaign – and in all likelihood will battle all the way through to the end of primary season in June.Skip to next paragraph
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Her 10-point victory margin, 55 percent to 45 percent, over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination met the expectations of pundits who believed she needed to match her 10-point victory in Ohio – a state similar to Pennsylvania – seven weeks ago. And she beat her six-point average lead in the final polls of Pennsylvania Democrats before Tuesday's vote.
Perhaps most important, Senator Clinton's decisive victory gives fresh impetus to her fundraising, as reports of campaign debts and dwindling coffers have raised questions about her ability to compete effectively in the next contests in two weeks. Just a few hours after the news media called Pennsylvania for Clinton, her campaign says, nearly $2.5 million in donations came in – 80 percent of it from new donors.
One of the charges that Clinton has lodged regularly against Senator Obama is that he can't win the big states. Now she can add Pennsylvania to that list, a swing state that will be crucial to a Democratic victory in November.
In Indiana, the polls are close, and, because it has a demographic and economic profile similar to Pennsylvania's and Ohio's, Clinton is under pressure to win there.
Still, merely winning most of the remaining contests would do little to close the deficit in her delegate count against Obama. To do so, she needs to win by extraordinary margins, because Democrats allocate delegates proportionately. As of Wednesday, with 99 percent of Pennsylvania's precincts reporting, Obama led 1,705 to 1,575, out of a total 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination.
So the underlying math remains the same: Obama is almost certain to finish the primaries with the most "pledged" delegates – those won through primaries and caucuses. Clinton still leads among superdelegates, elected officials and party leaders who can support whomever they choose, but in recent weeks he has closed the gap significantly. By winning Pennsylvania convincingly, Clinton has given the some 300 uncommitted superdelegates reason to hang on and remain undeclared.
Despite her nearly impossible mathematical odds in the pledged delegate count – and an average 10-point deficit against Obama in national polls of Democrats – she has stayed in the race in an apparent effort to convince superdelegates that she is more electable than Obama. Gaffes by Obama in the seven-week gap between Ohio and Pennsylvania seemed to point up his relative inexperience in tough campaigns, and in the end, may have widened his deficit in the final vote count in the Keystone State. Most memorable was Obama's private comment during a San Francisco fundraiser that rural Pennsylvania voters are "bitter" about their economic situation and "cling" to their guns and religion.