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The Pennsylvania "margin" question

April 23, 2008 |  8:49 am

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.