Philadelphia, Penn. — Had Hillary Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary by the unimpressive margin of 3-to-5% forecast to me by such politically savvy Philadelphians as “superlawyer” James Baumbach and City Councilman Bill Green, then it might be safe to say that the sun would soon set on her presidential campaign.
As it turned out, the former First Lady won the last large-state primary by a handsome margin of nearly ten percentage points. In so doing, she will likely make a net gain against Barack Obama in the committed delegate count and go into the Indiana primary May 6th.
“But, most importantly, Hillary Clinton can now go the superdelegates with a fresh case,” said George Marlin, political scientist and head of the Philadelphia Trust Company, told me when about half the vote was counted, “She clearly won the blue collar Catholic vote, won senior citizens, and women voters.
“So now, she can say to the superdelegates ‘the results in Pennsylvania shows that I’m what the party needs to carry the Rustbelt States.’ The winning coalition she put together here is what the Democrats need to carry Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in the fall.”
Marlin, author of respected study entitled “The Catholic Voter in the Twenty-First Century,” predicted to me on Monday that Clinton would defeat Obama by a margin of 8-to-10 percentage points statewide and that so-called “Reagan Democrats” would be pivotal to such a victory.
Throughout a very sunny Tuesday, right up to when the polls closed and the counting began, signs were ominous that not Marlin but Baumbach, Green and others who forecast an unimpressive Clinton lead would wind up the prophets of the day. Turnout in Philadelphia reached record proportions and voter surveys indicated that 93% of the African-American vote in the Keystone State would go for Obama. The Drudge Report indicated that the predictions of Clinton barely making it in the primary were on target, that exit polls showed a 52% to 48% victory for her.
The intensity of the Democratic contest was visible all around me during the day. On 12th Street, in the oldest part of Philadelphia, a large crowd of Obama backers waved signs urging passing drivers to “Honk For Hope” — which many of them did. Across the street, an equally large and loud crowd of Clinton supporters waved a sign reading “MADAME PRESIDENT — GET USED TO IT!” (A guide atop a double-decker bus advised tourists that “the primary, as you may notice, is a major event in Philadelphia today).
While Obama did sweep Philadelphia, Clinton carried its suburbs; Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery County. (One analyst I talked to noted the heavy pockets of Jewish Democrats in those three counties and suggested that Clinton’s heavy emphasis on support for Israel in the twilight days of the race was aimed at them). George Marlin pointed out that “polls before the voting usually showed that about six percent of Democratic voters were undecided, and the majority of those who made up their minds in the end broke for Clinton.” The New York senator also carried most of the rural and blue collar counties in the ‘T’ of the state between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
As for the 300,000 new Democratic voters who have swelled the Pennsylvania registration rolls since November, there was no evidence for the argument by several pundits that they were legions of young Obamaniacs who were unreachable by the pollsters because they have only cellphones.
So what does it all mean on April 23rd? As Yogi Berra would say, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”– and it ain’t going to be over for a while.