PA Bellwether Polls Split

I should have noticed earlier that the Suffolk U poll released today was actually a bellwether poll of 402 LVs from a "randomly selected list of 5,000 residents of Allegheny County" so not truly a follow-up poll to the one released yesterday.

From Political Intelligence:

[Hillary Clinton] led Barack Obama 52 percent to 40 percent in polling conducted Sunday and Monday in Allegheny County around Pittsburgh in a Suffolk University survey released today, a slightly larger margin than the statewide Suffolk poll done over the weekend.

Suffolk pollsters say they used similar bellwether counties to correctly predict results in prior Democratic primaries in New Hampshire, California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Ohio. They picked Allegheny County because its election results mirrored the statewide results in the 1988 and 2000 Democratic and Republican primaries.

This is particularly interesting considering a similar, although slightly older, poll of another bellwether region of Pennsylvania, The Lehigh Valley near the border of New Jersey and on the cusp of the Philadelphia media market. Here the result portends a much closer race statewide today (h/t Smintheus):

Clinton holds a 47 percent to 46 percent lead in the phone poll of 322 likely voters.

The poll was conducted between April 10 and Thursday, a time that saw the two candidates exchange jabs over Obama's observations on the tribulations of small-town Pennsylvania voters. [...]

"It's as tight a race as it can be in the Valley, a key bellwether region of the state," said Christopher Borick, the director of Muhlenberg's Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, which conducted the poll.

The valley's bellwether bonafides are impressive:

Since 1952, Lehigh Valley voters have diverged from the nation's choice of president only four times. That includes the 2000 race, when voters in the two counties picked popular-vote winner Al Gore.

And only once in that same period have Valley voters not mirrored the choice of their fellow Pennsylvanians, Borick said. In 1960, Valley voters picked Richard Nixon. The state went to winner John F. Kennedy.

There is reason to believe that region may go for Obama by a larger margin than the state as a whole today though, since it is partially in the Philly media market where Obama is advertising heavily; not to mention Hillary Clinton was slow to reach the region. Look for how the results in these regions track with these polls tonight. And as The Politico notes, they're likely to be reported relatively early in the evening:

The cities and suburbs usually report their returns first, which gives the candidate favored in those areas a quick - and sometimes fleeting - lead.

But be warned:

The conservative-leaning small towns through the center of the state usually filter in much later in the evening. [...]

So Obama could show a lead in the early results, but it might be short-lived. If Clinton is ahead at the start, she may never lose it.

There's more...

What a Clinton Win in Pennsylvania Would Mean

Looking at Markos' predictions of a 54 percent to 46 percent victory today for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, I think that's about where I'm at: 45-46 percent for Barack Obama, 54-55 percent for Clinton in the state, with a slightly greater likelihood that Clinton will come in above 55 percent than Obama will come in above 46 percent. Obama has been able to move his numbers up a bit in recent polling, from a ceiling of about 41 percent to a ceiling of about 44 percent in pre-election polling, and though I think he should be able to improve a point or two from that mark, I'd imagine that more undecideds would move towards Clinton than Obama (given that in states like Pennsylvania that has been the case).

Regardless of what the margin is, however, what would a Clinton win in Pennsylvania mean for the overall race for the Democratic nomination? Bloomberg News' Catherine Dodge and Kristin Jensen take a look:

To overtake Barack Obama in the nationwide popular vote, Hillary Clinton needs a bigger win in tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary than she has had in any major contest so far. And that's just for starters.

After more than 40 Democratic primaries and caucuses, Obama, the Illinois senator, leads Clinton by more than 800,000 votes. Even if the New York senator wins by more than 20 percentage points tomorrow -- a landslide few experts expect -- she would still have a hard time catching him.

[...]

``Popular vote matters,'' says Steve Grossman, a marketing executive and one of Clinton's top fundraisers. ``If there is an opportunity for her to pick up enough popular votes, that is a powerful calling card to the superdelegates to say the will of the people is a split decision.''

To earn that split decision, though, Clinton would need a 25-point victory in Pennsylvania, plus 20-point wins in later contests in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico. Even that scenario assumes Clinton, 60, would break even in Indiana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana and Oregon -- a prospect that's not at all certain.

The folks at First Read did their own number crunching today, and found that in the case of a 10-point win for Clinton today, followed by very favorable results in the remaining primaries (for instance, only losing by 10 points in North Carolina rather than the close to 20-point deficit she nows faces in the state), Clinton would still end up close to 200,000 votes short of winning the nation-wide popular vote -- a margin large enough so that Obama would still lead in this tally even if Florida were included as well. (Update [2008-4-22 13:6:6 by Jonathan Singer]: It looks like either I'm reading the First Read folks incorrectly or they're just wrong when they write, "So Team Clinton couldn't get there with also adding Florida; they'd need Michigan, too", because Clinton's margin in the uncontested and non-delegate yielding Florida contest was larger than 200,000 votes.)

Does this all mean that a Clinton win in Pennsylvania would be meaningless? Far from it. If Clinton can exceed expectations and win by a healthy double-digit margin tonight, as well as eat away a significant chunk of Obama's delegates, she would have more than enough reason to keep her campaign going, at least through North Carolina and Indiana, and probably even through to the end of the voting process in early June. However, it is important to keep in mind -- for voters, for election-watchers, for superdelegates, for the candidates themselves -- that even under some of the rosiest predictions, Clinton will not be able to overtake Obama in the pledged delegate race, she won't likely be able to overtake him in the popular vote race, and, without an immense and unexpected movement from within the ranks of the superdelegates, she won't be able to overcome his overall delegate lead by the time Democrats stop voting at the beginning of June.

There's more...

Final PA Polls...Really

There are three new polls out of PA, which were in the field yesterday and again there are some mixed messages, with Zogby and Suffolk showing double digit (and expanding) leads for Hillary Clinton, while Insider Advantage shows Clinton losing ground.

CandidateSuffolk U 4/20-21 (4/19-20)Insider Advantage 4/21 (4/20)Zogby 4/20-21 (4/19-20)
Clinton52 (52)49 (49)51 (48)
Obama40 (42)42 (39)41 (42)
Undecided6 (4)9 (12)6 (6)

Another uncertain indicator is undecideds. Depending on who is polling, they either are moving from Barack to undecided, from undecided to Barack or not at all. So who is to be believed? I've heard a couple pundits lately bullish on Obama's chances, feeling like the movement in the state is really in his direction, but this always seems to be accompanied by an underestimation of the extent to which the electorate is still torn even going into election day. When I was in Philadelphia I still sensed some indecision on the part of even ready made Obama voters, weighing Clinton's "get things done" model of the presidency with his inspirer in chief model. No matter how nationalized we think this election has been, people are having the same conversations in Pennsylvania in April as they were in California in February. So I think some of those who think Obama has a chance underestimate this; however, whereas just last week it looked as though undecideds defaulted to Hillary, Mark Blumenthal notes that that may no longer be the case.

So merely looking at the numbers above, part of me wants to amend my 8% Clinton win prediction upward, but then again my gut is telling me to hold off. Thoughts?

Update [2008-4-22 11:39:36 by Todd Beeton]:A-ha, and good old ARG is out with its final poll, also showing Clinton pulling away with 56-40, a 3 point net gain for her. For sake of comparison, in Ohio where Clinton ultimately won by 10%, ARG's final poll had her up 14%, Zogby had it tied up and Suffolk had Clinton up by 12%. What would have been helpful is if Survey USA had had a final poll, since they've been remarkably prescient this cycle to judge if the late breaking movement for Clinton is real. Right now it looks like it is.

There's more...

What does it mean if Senator Obama loses by 10 points or more tomorrow?

The winner of tomorrow's primary in Pennsylvania will be determined by the margin. As James Carville would say, "It's the margin stupid." If Senator Obama (disclaimer: I am a supporter of Senator Obama) loses by less than 5 points, he could make the case that Senator Clinton has no chance whatsoever to catch up to him (in terms of pledged delegates and/or popular vote), and that all the recent controversies, from Rev. Wright to his alleged association with William Ayers, have not had a lasting impact on his candidacy.

However, if Senator Clinton wins by 10 points or more, not only she would live to fight another day, but there would be serious concerns among several democrats, myself included, about the ability of Senator Obama to win in the fall.

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HRC internals: 11 point lead in PA

Drudge has been reporting this evening that a HRC spokesperson states that as of today, she is leading by 11 in Pennsylvania.

I don't see how Obama wins PA, but I guess the margin of victory really will determine the course of the rest of the campaign. John McIntyre from Real Clear politics has the primer for dissecting the results tomorrow:

--Obama wins: Race is totally over.

--Clinton wins by 5 or less: Race is effectively over.

--Clinton wins by 6-9: Status quo, which favors the front runner Obama, particularly as the clock winds down.

--Clinton wins by 10-13: Clinton remains the underdog, but her odds of being the nominee will be considerably higher than the conventional wisdom in the media.

--Clinton wins by 14+: Totally different race, as Clinton will be on a path to claim a popular vote win that will give her every bit as much of an argument as the legitimate "winner". In this scenario anything could ultimately happen, including neither Clinton nor Obama becoming the eventual nominee.

Here is the report from DRUDGE:

Controlled excitement is building inside of Clinton's inner circle as closely guarded internal polling shows the former first lady with an 11-point lead in Pennsylvania!

Clinton is polling near to nearly 2 to 1 over Obama in many regions of the state, a top insider explained to the DRUDGE REPORT.

A strong coalition of middle-class and religious voters has all but secured a Clinton victory Tuesday, with headline-making margins, the campaign believes.

"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of how much," a senior campaign source said Monday morning.

When pressed if the dramatic internal polling numbers could somehow be flawed in a state as demographically complex as Pennsylvania, and with new voter registration surging to unseen levels, the campaign insider held firm.

"Senator Obama would be wise not to unpack his bags quite yet."

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