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The Pennsylvania "margin" question

Newspaper readers and network TV viewers awoke this morning to word of Hillary Clinton's 10-percentage point victory in Pennsylvania. An obsession with her precise margin dominated election-night coverage and was regarded as an important indicator of her resilience and Barack Obama's failure to close the sale in the Democratic presidential race.

Before the votes were counted in Pennsylvania, a Clinton victory in the mid-single digits would be seen as good, not great, some said. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, her leading supporter in the state, said that high single digits would be significant. But double digits was something else. A 10-point win would be "extraordinary," said Rendell.

Getting to double digits would match her primary victory in next-door Ohio last month, which she won by 10.4 points, and signal Obama's inability to make substantial progress despite heavy spending and six weeks of in-person campaigning.

It also sounds more impressive.

Based on nearly complete returns, however, it doesn't appear that Clinton quite got there. According to the Associated Press tally, with less than one percent of precincts yet to be counted, Clinton led Obama by 54.7% to 45.3% -- a winning margin of 9.4 points.

The elections division of the Pennsylvania Secretary of State's office, with almost -- but not quite -- complete results, gave Clinton 54.3% and Obama 45.8%, a Clinton advantage of 8.5 points.

Either way, that's good, but not double-digits.

(UPDATE: As the state officials get closer to a complete count, the Clinton margin had upticked slightly, to 9.2 points.)

-- Paul West

Paul West of the Baltimore Sun writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau.

Comments () | Archives (18)

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You guys are horrible reporters. No wonder LA times struggle to substantiate itself in the news world and resonate with your readers. Your stories are pathetic. Grow up.

Hey, who cares? Clinton Rules! If she has to get CNN to keep it at 10 so she can wow her donors in this latest frenzied round of "Dialing for Dollars," well hell, who'd want to stop her? Jeez, she's been a victim for so darn long, payback's a bi**h! Get over it, Obama, and stop playing so dirty!

For the record, her win margin is 8.6% according to official Pennsylvania returns with 99.09% reporting.

Senator Clinton said that "the wind is turning." I don't know. While I can understand how there is certainly ground for the Clintons' campaign to rejoice about the Senator's victory in PA, I do not see either the kind of "wind" of which the former first lady is speaking. If anything her victory margin in PA has shrunk by 6pts from what the expectation was in the wake of the Ohio and Texas primaries (the anticipation at the time was that she would sweep PA by at least 16pts.) Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that 10pts (or even 9.4pts or 8.5pts) is bad nor am I trying to belittle the Senator's victory, all I am saying here is that it doesn't amount to the kind of momentum her campaign is building it up to be and certainly not to a turn in the wind. Blame it (or praise it as the case may be) on her opponent's campaign or, as recent poles seem to indicate, in a growing distrust among people of Senator Clinton, or on her staff’s lack of leadership (there has been a lot of up and down there), but if anything, what the PA results reveal is that, far from building up, what has happened instead is that the wind has abated a bit. But then again, maybe, 16pts (or even 20pts) was too much to expect despite the playing field advantage (Senator Clinton's late father Hugh Rodham grew up in Scranton, played football for Penn State and took the Senator as a little girl to Pennsylvania every summer) or the Clinton' name recognition. What do you think?

It will be interesting to see the division of delegates from Pennsylvania. While Hillary is to be congratulated on her win, people need to take into account how far behind Barack was before his campaign in Pennsylvania began. I believe this margin was really what most of us expected and is better for him than anyone would have predicted several months ago.

PA voters who went for Hillary proved they are not bitter. They love their guns and Pope and particularly their subsistence. They showed that better to be a loser than quit being a racist. Last time the Reagon democrats voted for abstractions in 80s they got all their manufacturing shipped out. Like the old man said that his pension hadn't changed since mid eighties. This time they had to vote for whiteness and a flag pin and they did. That's right, when you're poor your vision dims.

I am surprized that everyone in the media is calling it a 10 percentage or double digit win where as it is not. Hillary is getting free publicity as well as buzz because of that fact. Not that it really matters but it is sad to say that media has bought into her campaign theme / spin everytime - be it big state electability, FL & MI - to which she signed on to (no one has questioned her on that), they were the first one to bring delegate count, they shifted focus on popular vote and everyone bought that argument - they even dare to bring in MI, FL popular votes but not the true / actual vote count of the caucus states. She openly accepts that she has baggage and yet media buys the argument that she can better survive republican attacks. Media wants the horse race they have one. Republicans want to run against her - they may very well get her if this is the way will of the majority can be ignored! At the end of the day I still feel Obama will be the nominee but she and her husband have damaged the party with their message of hate for years to come!

Obama is our Savior. Obama, Ayers, and Reverend Wright are Right! God D*** america! The stupid, bitter, racist "typical white people" of pennsylvannia voted for clinton. How disgusting. They ignored their opportunnity to redeem themselves for their racist past - slavery - and finally make Michelle proud. How sad. Please no hater responses, but do please stop buying guns you biiter small town hicks, and save it for my reparations check! Obama '08, Repartions Check, '09!

Analizing the competiton by Senator Clinton standards, and taking into consideration

1) the use of her dirty mouth trick out of issue fear seeded incongruent strategies

2) The fact that Senator Obama is the "outsider"

3) The fact that she is the pennsylvannia "grandaughter"

4) The "entitled" pennsylvannia endorsement

She did very poorly as she only took 10% of "her own and very own" cake. The rest of the cake was evaporated by humble "outsider"
Senator Obama.

Reading between the lines, I couldn't help but sense an ever-so-slightly arched eyebrow behind the writing.

Indeed, without coming out and saying it, this little piece highlights the absurdly tight focus of a media juggernaut bend on milking every last bit of ink out of the Pennsylvania contest.

Everyone needs to go take a walk in the sunshine and think about something else for a while, seems to me.

Thank you , LA Times for not jumping on the bandwagon and report that the margin of victory was not 10%. Hillary''s new slogan is " Why can''t he close the deal?" That would be because Obama is not a used car salesman like her. Keep counting those imaginary delegates from Michigan and Florida. If there is one thing that America stands for, is that We are a nation of Laws, and Michigan and Florida broke the Democratic laws. The Democratic Party is not going to show the rest of the country that they will break their own rules."If we had the same system as the Republicans, I would already be the nominee...." yet another Clinton scenario for winning the primary. Do you think that you can make any other points as to whether the superdelegates should back Hillary ? Why did the media fail to chastise Ed Rendell " There are some people in this State that will not vote for a black man" but they vote for someone who channels Truman and said " we can totally obliterate Iran" By the way that wasn''t McCain who made that statement... it was Hillary. I did not say Clinton, because you may have understood it to be Bill Clinton.

In the coverage of the Pennsylvania primary, you no doubt heard about the “Clinton political institution” in the state. This is gentile name for the political machine. In this case, the political machine (Pennsylvania state officials) put out the 10% figure when, if you do the actual math, it’s really 8.5% -- according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state web site. I believe the ballot count is accurate, but there's probably no law which says your % math has to be accurate, so it's not! They know the double digit % is very important to perception, that is why you are hearing 10%. If you call them on it, they will call you a nit picker, etc. Best to just drop the issue and “MoveOn”. :-)

Thank you for pointing out that she missed her required double digit win. Corzine said she should get out if she couldnt win her home state by double digits.
under 9.5 is rounded DOWN, NOT UP.

Finally someone that can do 3rd grade math and blog at the same time.. What the heck is wrong with CNN/Drudge/MSNBC/ etc.. Margin was never over 9 and looks like when the last 40 precicts in Philly get counted will end up around 8.4 percent.. Heck of a difference in a headline that says 8% margin vs DOUBLE DIGIT WIN

8% is double digits- the 8 and the %- how dare you attack the credibility of the liberal media uh or was it Fox News? Anyway Obama can't win against a Democrat in a Democrat state full of Democrats how in the world could he win against a Republican in a Democrat state? Only Hillary would be able to accomplish such a remarkable feat. And why is that Muslim boy hanging around that nasty unamerican preacher for 20 years. Why somebody ought to tell Fox News so they can warn the people.

Questions from overseas. Is the result due to white prejudice? How can a church get so political as to display a sign that is clearly stupid and wrong, if not for the acceptance by its community? Where is the outcry? Will the person be crucified like Wright was? Pennsylvania is now on the world map and we all know the type of people who live there. Yeah, clinging to guns and relgion and that kind of religion. Obama was totally right.

My last check (about 4 PM central time) of the official PA Department of State website indicated that 40 of the 45 districts that had not yet reported were from Philadelphia county, where Obama has a 65-35 lead. So a fair bet would be that the final margin remains in single digits. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But also not a headline grabbing 10 point, double digit outcome either.

Hillary's campaign still claims victory in Texas, but Obama actually won more delegates. Now it's 10% instead of 9%. I can't believe that "professional" journalists report the spin instead of the fact. Must tune to Comedy Central for some "serious" journalism.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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