Some notes on Pennsylvania
by MBNYC, Tue Apr 15, 2008 at 06:07:26 AM EDT
"My poll is better than your poll".
"No, you loser, everyone knows that the poll you're citing is conducted by having rodents run in a maze."
"Oh yeah? Well, you're a poopiehead!"
Such is the state of discussion about polls in the Pennsylvania primary, and, by and large, the primary itself.
Some observations. >>>
Far be it from me to get in the way, especially, of Clinton followers, still clinging to the belief that "Bittergate" will somehow drop a bomb on Obama's campaign, leaving them the victors by default. There have been a number of comparable incidents, all of which have failed to deliver the silver bullet the Clinton campaign seems to be praying for nightly. The available evidence suggests that this newest scandal, if one can call it that, is not the game-changer so ardently desired by some. Personally, I think this episode and Clinton's somewhat overwrought response will actually hurt her, but the evidence for that remains inconclusive.
So let's put that to the side for a moment and focus on polls and outcomes.
In terms of polls one week from balloting, Pollster.com has the race at Clinton 46.8%, Obama 42.7%. Notably, this trend average includes a time lag of two days, given that the last poll they include in their average is the ARG poll from the 13th, two days ago.
Here, take a look.
The available evidence presently suggests that Obama's momentum - see chart - has slowed or become flat in Pennsylvania. That's a conclusion underlined also by Pollster.com's discussion of the sensitivity of its trend estimator, well worth a read especially for non-professionals.
CQ Politics takes a look at the likely outcome by delegates, and that's where it gets really interesting.
One doesn't need great predictive powers to estimate how many delegates Clinton and Obama will win in most of Pennsylvania's 19 congressional districts. That's because the district delegates are awarded on a proportional basis, and each candidate's delegate allocation is rounded to the nearest whole number. That means the delegate allotments can be the same for a wide range of popular vote percentages.
Consider Pennsylvania's 5th District, which has four district delegates. The popular vote tally between Clinton and Obama should be close. But for the purposes of awarding district delegates, it doesn't really matter who wins a tight race because the winner would need to take more than 62.5 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania's 5th -- or in any other four-delegate district -- to earn a 3-1 delegate split. (Multiplying four by .625 equals 2.5, so a candidate who receives, say, 65 percent of the vote would receive a delegate share that would be subsequently rounded up to three). So if Clinton defeats Obama, 60 percent to 40 percent, the district delegates would split 2-2; if Obama defeats Clinton, 60 percent to 40 percent, a 2-2 split would also ensue.
In a five-delegate district, a narrow win would yield a 3-2 delegate advantage. A 70 percent super-majority would be needed to win four out of five. For this reason, it's highly likely that each of the five Pennsylvania districts that award five district delegates will yield 3-2 splits.
The end result?
Clinton will, under a 55%-45% win, gain a net of ten delegates, a deficit that Obama will likely make up in North Carolina, where he runs stronger than she does in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania, for all the heat and little light expended on it, will not save Hillary Clinton.