Pennsylvania by the Numbers

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

With the Clinton campaign in Scranton, Pa.


Shortly after this post went up, Barack Obama told listeners to KDKA radio in Pittsburgh that he is not  "predicting a victory" in Pennsylvania. There is no correlation to this post and that Obama pronouncement.

Also, the Clinton campaign, through chief strategist Geoff Garin and communications director Howard Wolfson, "categorically deny" a Drudge post that internal campaign polls show Clinton leading by 11. However, Wolfson also says Clinton expects to "narrow the popular vote considerably" after the Pennsylvnia primary -- this a reference to Obama's lead in the popular vote through all nominating contests. It does not appear possible for Clinton to achieve Wolfson's narrow considerably standard without a double-digit victory.

Most importantly, the post below says the last competitive presidental primary in Pennsylvania occurred in 1976. THIS IS WRONG. Democrat and Bourbon Room devotee Mary Anne Marsh reminds me that the 1980 nomination battle between Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and then-President Jimmy Carter went down to the wire in Pennsylvania, with Kennedy winning a narrow victory that was not sealed until two days later following a recount of votes in Montgomery County in suburban Philadelphia. The Philly suburbs were important then and they're important now. THAT much The Bourbon Room got right.

Can a candidate win a presidential primary after never polling above 45 percent?

In theory, it's possible. But it's not very damn likely.

This is Barack Obama's problem in Pennsylvania. And the Obama camp knows it. It will not predict victory because it knows that's not possible. Obama's goal is to minimize the magnitude of Clinton's victory and fight tenaciously to win the perceptions/expectations war. Adjectives used to describe a 6-point Clinton victory (narrow, unimpressive, underwhelming) and a 12-point victory for Clinton (decisive, impressive, sizable) will in large measure dictate the way Super Delegates and contributors view Tuesday's result.

The polling data suggests the race is close. But the polls, it seems, have a flaw almost identical to the polls in Ohio. Those polls pretty accurately predicted Obama's support but under-counted Clinton's.

The average of the ten polls in Ohio before Super Tuesday Part Two showed Clinton at 50.3 and Obama's at 43.4. Clinton won the primary 54 to 44.

Here in Pennsylvania, Clinton's average in the 10 most recent polls is 48.8 and Obama's is 42.5. If Clinton out-performs the polls here as she did in Ohio and Obama hits his poll mark, Tuesday's results will be 53 percent to 43 percent.

Is a 10-point victory enough for Clinton? It's not enough to close the pledged delegate gap by very much. The Obama worst-case scenario is for Clinton to pick up 20 pledged delegates in a blowout well above 10 points for Clinton. But team Obama is betting on a Clinton pickup of 10 or fewer pledged delegates, in part because they expect to roll up big margins of victory in Philadelphia's urban congressional districts.

So much of Tuesday's results will be dictated by the ground war in the City of Brotherly Love and the surrounding suburbs. Seven of Pennsylvania's 19 congressional districts are in Philadelphia or within 60 miles. Obama's team hopes to win the African-American vote in Philadelphia by a margin of 90 percent to 10 percent (and believe urban backlash to the ABC debate last Wednesday helps enormously).

Obama is also looking for solid support in the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia, which is why Obama hopped aboard a train and gave speeches at and slow-rolled through numerous commuter train stops in the Philly suburbs.

But Obama must out-work and out-muscle the combined forces of Gov. Ed Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia, and the city's current mayor, Michael Nutter. In the most important, vote-rich part of the state, Clinton has powerful allies who know where the votes are, how to mobilize them and how to motivate them.

The key question: how much political capital will Rendell and Nutter spend in Philadelphia when they know the social movement behind Obama is so strong there. Obama has mentioned at every stop since Friday the crowd of 35,000 he drew Friday night in Philadelphia. The message is clear to Rendell and Nutter -- push against the tide of support at your own risk because these constituents and their long memories will be around after the presidential parade leaves Pennsylvania.

There's one other factor to keep an eye on: who won the new registrant wars. About 165,000 new Democratic voters have registered for this primary since January. The Obama campaign says it has conducted a quietly effective registration drive in Philadelphia and intend to spring tens of thousands of new voters on Clinton.

This is a potential problem for Clinton. As her campaign readily acknowledges, turnout models in Pennsylvania are unreliable. The state hasn't had a truly competitive Democratic presidential primary since 1976. Again, this is where Rendell and Nutter come in. If anyone in Pennsylvania knows who these new voters are and how to reach them in southeastern Pennsylvania, it is these two. The Clinton team would be far more worried about the X-factor of newly registered Democrats if they didn't have Rendell and Nutter on their side.

One last point about Pennsylvania. Obama's worked much harder here than he did in Ohio. Person-to-person contact and the Obama aura are still his best assets on the trail and he's put them to exhaustive use in the closing hours, even coming up here to Scranton last night just to rattle Clinton's cage in what's supposed to be -- and probably will be -- Clinton country to the tune of 75 percent to 25 percent.

Corey O'Brien, a county commissioner in Lackawanna County, told me Obama made the trip to Scranton to prove he was ceding nothing to Clinton and to eat into Clinton's base. O'Brien said if Obama can move Clinton down to the mid-60s in the Scranton area that will make his margins in the Philly area all the more important. Tactics like this were non-existent for Obama in Ohio and could make the difference between a 10-point or 12-point loss and a 6-point or 8-point loss.

And it is between these numbers, that Super Delegates, contributors and the news media will decide what happened in Pennsylvania, what it says about Obama's general election prospects and if Clinton has earned her right to credibly continue her bid for the nomination