Published in the New York Post on April 23, 2008.
Hillary Clinton refuses to die. Having been given up for dead after losing Iowa, she rebounded in New Hampshire. Then a string of 11 straight consecutive losses – followed by a win in Ohio and a tie (in delegates) in Texas. Now, she’s won Pennsylvania.
Problem is, it doesn’t mean anything.
Because of the Democratic Party’s arcane proportional-representation rules, her win stands to give her a net gain of 10 to 15 delegates when all is counted. That means that Barack Obama will fall from a lead of 161 in elected delegates to about 145 or so. Big deal.
The primaries coming up in the next two weeks – Indiana and North Carolina – are likely to give Obama back a goodly portion of those delegates. By the time all the primaries have been held, after June 3, there is no doubt that Obama will lead by more than 100 elected delegates, and likely 150. From there, it will be an easy route to the nomination.
The Democratic superdelegates aren’t about to risk a massive and sanguinary civil war by taking the nomination away from the candidate who won more elected delegates. If they ever tried it, we’d see a repeat of the demonstrations that smashed the 1968 Chicago convention and ruined Hubert Humphrey’s chances of victory.
Clinton won Pennsylvania for two key reasons: Only Democrats could vote in the primary, and the Keystone State electorate is dominated by the elderly, who are staunchly for Clinton.
Despite her claims of electability, Hillary has never done well among independent voters. And Obama usually loses the Democrats. Pennsylvania’s closed-primary rules gave her a key advantage.
Older voters are flocking to Clinton as fears mount of what Obama might do as president mount. But those under 45 – less focused, perhaps, on race – are moving toward Obama. Here, that split helped her.
Of the 50 states, only Florida has a higher over-65 proportion of its population. But there’s a key difference: Florida’s elderly moved there – Pennsylvania’s are the folks that are left after the young people moved away.
Pennsylvania Democrats, in other words, suffer from future shock. They welcome old, established ways and embrace dynasties happily because they are so familiar. (Look at the Bob Caseys – dad was governor, the son is senator.)
But don’t expect the open primaries of Indiana and North Carolina to behave like Pennsylvania’s geriatrics. Both states are younger, especially North Carolina, and independents can vote in each primary. (North Carolina is where a lot of the young people who fled Pennsylvania winters and job losses ended up).
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be treated to much hoopla about how the Democratic race is once again up for grabs. Then, on May 5, Hillary’s hopes will be dashed once more.
And then? After the votes are counted in all the primaries, look for the Gang of Four – Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean and John Edwards – to join together and issue a challenge to the superdelegates: Make up your minds.
Together, they’ll probably demand that these appointed delegates commit to one candidate or the other by mid June. And since the primaries will have lifted Obama over 1,900 delegates (elected and super), he’ll only need about 100 more, out of about 300 uncommitted superdelegates.
Their hands forced, enough superdelegates will go to Obama to put him over the top – he’ll be the candidate.
That’s all, folks.