As I awoke this morning to find the final margin in yesterday's Pennsylvania primary, I was haunted, to some extent, by the parallels that were drawn between Ohio and Pennsylvania in the wake of the Ohio primary some six weeks ago. If you operate under the assumption that the demographics in each state are fairly highly correlated, the results of each primary speak for themselves. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, Clinton's margin of victory was essentially 10 percentage points. So after all that spending and all the bickering and all the revelations (Rev. Wright, Bosnia, lapel pins, etc.) the result of a six week campaign was essentially nothing. Well, that's the way it looks; cynical as that may seem. [Tom Holbrook and Jim Campbell may want to weigh in now on that question.] I don't really subscribe to that because Clinton's original Pennsylvania poll numbers following the Texas-Ohio results got a boost based on her wins. Over time, though, those numbers decayed and came back down to earth. There was some variation in there based on spending, advertising and other revelations, but in the end the six week long efforts by Obama and Clinton (endogenously) and outside factors canceled each other out.
So do campaigns matter? There is the argument that campaigns cancel each other out, sure, but in the end we only get to see the fruits of a campaign's labor when an election is close. And that's what we have here: a closely contested race for the Democratic nomination. Do campaigns matter? No, if all you're doing is looking at margins between certain states. Yes, if you look at Obama's strength in caucuses or Clinton's approach to Texas and Ohio. Each either knew and exploited the rules or took advantage of some last minute doubt raising.
Of course, if you lean on state demographics as the major indicator of success, then most of the remaining states, save Indiana, fall squarely in either Clinton's or Obama's camps. The real battle then, will be waged there and among, ahem, the superdelegates. The party, I'm sure, is really going to step up the pressure on the superdelegates to decide, one way or the other, sooner rather than later.
And what of momentum? Rob has weighed in in the comments to yesterday's post. Is it dead or is it just the uniqueness of this Democratic race that has made it a non-factor? The comments await.
Who's next? Well, Guam is officially up next followed by North Carolina and Indiana. Guam is Obama country and North Carolina appears to be as well. Let's see how yesterday's results get spun though and how the polls move in the meantime. Two weeks is shorter than six, so Obama doesn't have as much time to get things back to "normal" after what should be something of a Clinton boost after yesterday. But then, momentum may not play a role at all.
The Pennsylvania aftermath has pushed the 2008 Electoral College Maps back a day, so I'll be back with those tomorrow.