Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Obama lost Pennsylvania and what's needed for an Obama win

The Demographics.

Some argue the short answer to the question of why Obama lost Pennsylvania is that he lost Pennsylvania for the same reason he lost Ohio. However you slice the demographics, Senator Obama can’t seem to win in areas that have relatively high numbers of white seniors, white working class union voters and white voters earning less than 50K per year. However, it is a bit worse than that for Barack Obama: he lost white men and white women, as well, so one senses a definite racial component at work. Of course, race cuts both ways. Hillary, for example, got less than ten percent of the black vote in Pennsylvania. For many more details, variants and a very thoughtful presentation of this “explanation,” of the Pennsylvania loss by Obama, go here.

Primaries as Censuses.

The New York Times’ David Brooks stated recently on PBS’ News Hour that the Democratic Presidential Primaries have become more similar to censuses than elections. Brooks analogizes this to the ticket taker at the airport asking if you are checking baggage (Yes, older people, Hillary voters) or flying only with carry-ons or backpacks (Younger people, Obama voters). It is a bit more complicated, but you can see where this takes us.

The census theory of voting is sort of like saying a team won a football game because it scored more points. We are not so much explaining the outcomes as much as looking for a multivariate equation or correlation that “explains,” a great deal of the voting variance. [This reporter writes this at the risk of being characterized both as an “elitist,” and as someone who “clings,” to a background in economics and statistics.”].


And, then there are the other states that may not fit into this nice, neat theory. Did Obama lose New York and New Jersey because those states are part of the vast expanse that is called Hillary’s home turf, and thus well organized? Did he lose California because the Clintons own the Democratic organization in that state or because California is too large and too costly a state to organize in a short amount of time. Where does Obama’s charisma, civility, charm, likeability and new politics fit into this mix? Did Obama win Iowa because its size and the time Obama had to devote to it made it more manageable to organize than say, California?

Governors v. Senators.

That last question leads us back to an important factor ignored by the Brooks’ census theory of voting. Organization. In Pennsylvania, Hillary had Governor Rendell and his vast organizational network. True, Obama had the popular Senator Casey. But, governors have an organization that they tap into on a daily basis.

Rendell produced one hundred mayors for Hillary, perhaps with the state money a Governor can sprinkle on municipalities. Senator Casey, on the other hand, travels light, with no entourage and no money [Chris Matthews, in his continuing attempt to be a 60 year old idealist, dismissed Rendell and his money as factors last night, saying voters don’t follow leaders or endorsers for the office of President; Matthews is a lot of things these days, but “Hardball,” ain’t one of them].

Similarly, in Ohio, Hillary had Governor Strickland and his organization at her disposal. Organization and government walking around money can be very helpful to a presidential candidate. If you are running for President, there is nothing like using government money to buy local organizations and votes. Indeed, the saying in politics about organization is, “If you are running for President, don’t leave home without it.”

Yes, Obama outspent Hillary on TV ads more than two to one in Pennsylvania. But, that is playing catch-up in terms of name recognition with voters who have seen the name Clinton on two prior presidential primary ballots and heard that name in countless TV ads and media mentions during the last fifteen years.


So, when you are following the demographics, don’t forget the importance of organization. In politics, it is always MOM, Message-Organization-Money. To keep it simple, in Pennsylvania, Hillary and Obama split on the Message [on the issues, Hillary and Obama essentially were the same], Hillary had the Organization, and Obama had the Campaign money. In this case, Hillary’s organization swamped Obama’s money.

Also, Obama’s message of “change,” was, for the first time, not the right kind of change. In Pennsylvania, a lot of voters decided to “cling to their guns and their religion,” and those were two items they didn’t want changed. Obama had been closing the gap in Pennsylvania until the bitterness/clinging quote was disclosed. After that, he sort of stagnated and slipped back in the polls and in the poll that counts most, the election.

Putting it all together.

Summing up, demographics count. MOM counts. Likeability counts. Race counts. Gaffes count. Thus, if Obama had an Eddie Rendell at his side, if Obama had been more careful with what he said at a recent San Francisco fundraiser and if Obama had disassociated himself [quietly] from Rev. Wright a few years ago, Obama could have won Pennsylvania. But, as Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod might tell you, that's a little bit like saying if we had some ham and we had some eggs, we could have some ham and eggs.

So, folks, we are in the home stretch of a Presidential campaign that is about sixteen months old. That is about the same amount of time that Obama and Hillary tell you they need to "responsibly," bring home, in large part, the U. S. troops from Iraq. Senator Obama's lead over Senator Clinton was reduced by fifteen delegates last night, meaning he still has a "healthy," lead of 128 delegates. Obama needs 308 more delegates to clinch the Democratic Party's nomination for President. [Go here for a comprehensive delegate tally].

So, it is on to North Carolina (115 delegates) and Indiana (72 delegates). And, don’t forget Guam (4 delegates, May 3) or MOM. The census theory of voting is still relevant. But, so is MOM, in the run-up to the Indiana and NC primaries (May 6)-- and in the run-up to Mother’s day (May 11).

After May 6, there will be six battle states left, with 217 delegates for which to vie.

As of today, there are 303 uncommitted super-delegates for Obama and Hillary to target and 408 primary votes to go after.

Putting that all together means that Obama needs to win 43% of the remaining delelgates to get the nomination, while Hillary needs 57%. Nobody should ever count out the Clintons before the Fat Lady sings, but you'd probably rather be in Obama's position than Hillary's no matter how many large or swing states she has won.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search,
can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Obama and McCain, former Presidential candidate Richardson-- and many other pols, including next week's show in the suburbs with former Presidential candidate John Cox, this week's show in the suburbs with political consultant Pete Giangreco, prior shows with State Rep. John Fritchey, State Senator Radogno, Rep. Lang, and WGN Political Pundit and Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green and select prior shows going back to 2005 at
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs Youtube page include next week's show in the suburbs with former Republican Primary Presidential Candidate John Cox, reflecting (a) on the similarity of much of Cox's message to that of Obama and (b) on the Illinois Combine, which in Cox's view, seems still to have a grip on the State GOP and some of its leaders, this week's show in the suburbs with Dem. Campaign consultant Pete Giangreco, this past Monday night's show in the Cities of Chicago and Aurora with State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), our prior shows with Senator and Deputy Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), State Rep. Lang (Part 2), State Rep. Lang (Part 1) , WGN Radio political pundit Paul Green, Senator and 2010 Illinois Republican Primary Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady,former State Senator Steve Rauschenberger, assessing Barack Obama.