Pennsylvania is Ohio Squared

23 04 2008

Spin or no spin, coming from 18 points down in the polls to losing by ten (55 -45) is a lost, but one that came in line with Senator Obama’s fairly modest goal before the Pennsylvania primary. According to Talking Points Memo, Obama told a group of donors on a conference call in March that his goal was to finish within 10 points, which is only a shade better than the 54 -44 lost he suffered in Ohio. So judging him by his own standards, he barely met his goal.

But we need to consider what the initial prognosticators were saying just after Obama’s lost in the Democratic Texas in Ohio primaries. Many proclaimed gloom and doom for the Illinois Senator because the demographics did not seem to favor him in the Keystone State. Dan Balz of the Washington Post in particular said:

There are fewer young people and more old people in Pennsylvania than in Ohio, which is good for Clinton and bad for Obama. In Ohio, 44 percent of the Democratic electorate was under age 45 and Obama carried them by 54 percent to 45 percent. In Pennsylvania those voters may represent only a quarter of the electorate. In Ohio, voters over age 65 comprised 14 percent of the electorate and Clinton carried them 72 percent to 26 percent. In Pennsylvania, they may account for a quarter of the Democratic vote.

There are fewer college graduates and more non-college graduates in Pennsylvania than in Ohio, both among the population at large and among white voters. That, too, spells trouble for Obama.

Balz’s take at the time struck me as rather alarmist, but he had a point. By Balz’s logic, however, Obama should have very well lost by considerably more than just 9 or 10, since as Balz’s claimed, “In terms of demographics, Pennsylvania is Ohio squared.”

So, I don’t think its a stretch to say that while the Clinton campaign deserves a lot of credit for winning decisively, for Obama to finish within 9 or 10 points in a state like Pennsylvania after Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a monster, the nasty Geraldine Ferraro controversy, the Rev. Wright affair, the bittergate scandal that wasn’t, and that farce of a debate on ABC last Wednesday, is still quite a feat.

As you can see from the graph below, however, Clinton had similar showings in Ohio and in Pennsylvania. But a close look at the margin column for both OH and PA demonstrates that Obama cut into her support among white men, among the elderly, white Protestants, and beat her among Independents and the college educated. Its not a win, but not a terrible showing either.

(H/T: Real Clear Politics for the Graph)

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