Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Pennsylvania strategy

Barack Obama is gaining ground in Pennsylvania-Hillary Clinton's lead is down to six points:

Two weeks before the Keystone State primary, the Quinnipiac University poll
shows Hillary Rodham Clinton still out front among Democratic voters there.
Fifty percent of those surveyed favored Clinton, while 44 percent said they were
backing Obama.

Clinton's margin in the survey has been shrinking
over the past few weeks. In mid-March she had a lead of 12 percentage points.
Last week, that had dropped to nine, and now it's six.

Because of the Democratic Party's pledged delegate allocation structure, Barack Obama does not need to win Pennsylvania at this point in the race to put the Clinton campaign on the ropes. The remainder of the primary calendar favors a slew of Obama victories, so all he needs to do is make a respectable showing and win enough pledged delegates to maintain his overall lead, and internal party pressure for Hillary to drop out in the weeks ahead will likely mount. A six-to-eight percentage point spread is all that Obama's campaign would be compelled to obtain in order to accomplish that goal.

Obama is not likely to win Pennsylvania, but the closer he comes to doing so the more likely it is that Hillary's engine will just run out of steam. If Obama really can keep Hillary's margin of victory to within six points, he will maintain a sizable lead in pledged delegates, and if he can close that margin to something even closer, it will become mathematically impossible for Clinton to be nominated without superdelegates simply throwing her the nomination. If that is how Hillary Clinton is nominated, she will lose the General Election in a rout that could pay dividends to the Republicans in Congress.

My hunch is that the Democrats' internal party brass (most of whom support Clinton) are calculating that scenario, and will flatly tell her that she must drop out or risk getting the minimum of their partisan support-they'll shift their efforts under those circumstances to maintaining their majority in the House and Senate.

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