Where to for Barack Obama? What does he need to do to ensure that he goes to Denver, Colorado, and the Democratic National Convention, with the most pledged delegates and enough momentum to sway the superdelegates that will decide this race?
While I’ve said that the schedule is favourable to him, we know that one bump is enough to set things off that would lead to a disastrous result. With that said, let’s take a look at what the schedule holds, and how he can use it to his advantage.
Wyoming is on March 8 – not far from here. Obama needs to turn around everyone who is looking at the Hillary Clinton ‘success’ on March 4 to look at him once again, and quickly. Before this state heads to their caucuses. And he needs this state to be the early stop to any ‘momentum’ Clinton might gain from her March 4 results. The fact that there are only 121 delegates (and 6 superdelegates) up for grabs doesn’t help. But the trend that he has shown in winning states with caucuses that are traditionally Republican will mean that he stands the best chance at winning the state. If he can turn the win into a big win (60%+) then I think, even with such a small delegate count, it will take some wind out of the sails.
Mississippi is on March 11, and not long at all after Wyoming, or even now. If it were a state that Obama would normally struggle in, and needed time to build in-roads, then there would be some serious problems for his campaign. But Mississippi is a state that Obama is expected to go well in – because of location and demographics. Obama has won the southern belt of states right above Florida thus far – Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. And all of these by double-figures. South Carolina was a 55%/27% split to Obama, Georgia 66%/31%, Alabama 56%/42%, and Louisiana 57%/36%. These Southern states vary to the Southern states that Clinton has won. The Hispanic population in the Arizona, New Mexico, Texas belt that Clinton has won is quite high, with a lower African-American population. On the other hand, the African-American population in the Obama-belt is quite high, with a low Hispanic population.
Mississippi is the same as the rest of the Obama-belt. In the 2005 U.S. consensus, 37.24% of the Mississippi population was African-American, while the Hispanic population was less than 2% and the Asian population less than 1%. This is the highest proportion (for African-Americans) of population that any state has in the U.S. Obama has a clear advantage here, as even in Ohio and Texas, states that Clinton won, Obama still registered the clear winner among the ‘black’ vote. In Texas, he had a figure of 85% of the ‘black’ vote. The rest of the population is ‘white’, and while prior to yesterday Obama had a majority among white men, and was splitting white women, he managed to lose easily with women in Texas and Ohio, and did lose (though not nearly as bad) white men too. If we accept that that might be a ‘fluke’, and not a trend, then Obama should have Mississippi in the bag.
The fact that Mississippi is more rich in delegates than Wyoming does help the Obama campaign, as well as the state has primary voting. There are 33 tied to the vote, and 7 superdelegates. Another convincing win of 60%+ would take the remaining wind out of the Clinton momentum sails, and bring the campaign back to square one. What is square one? It’s before March 4, when Obama was on a winning streak and had a 100+ delegate lead. We can predict the 100+ delegate lead quite easily.
Assume that Obama manages these 60%/40% wins. Wyoming with 12, Mississippi with 33. For Wyoming, Obama wins 7.2 delegates with 60%, with Clinton getting 4.8. Now because Obama wins in the highly populated areas, where there are more delegates, all rounding goes to Obama. That leaves Obama with 8, Clinton with 4. For Mississippi, Obama gets 19.8 with 60%, Clinton 13.2. Again, with the rounding, Obama gets 20, Clinton 13. I also think that Obama might get a better result in Mississippi than in Wyoming, so I’ve adjusted that to a 22/11 split his way. That brings the counts to Obama with 1,550, Clinton with 1,439. Assuming that these figures are correct, and that no superdelegates pledge, then this is where the candidates will stand come March 12.
From there, 41 days must go by until the next state votes. That state is the very delegate rich state of Pennsylvania. There are 158 delegates tied to the voting there, with a further 30 superdelegates watching their state’s results. Unfortunately for Obama, Pennsylvania is a Clinton-esque state. It borders New York, New Jersey, and Ohio (all states that Clinton has won). Perhaps the Obama campaign can take some solace in the fact that the state also touches borders with Maryland, Delaware (2 states that Obama has won), and West Virginia (a state that Obama stands a reasonable chance in). It’s also a state that is similar to Ohio in terms of local economics. Like Ohio, Pennsylvania was affected by N.A.F.T.A. and the economic downturn of recent years in the U.S. Ohio was probably more hit by it, and yet, even with pledged support of the treaty, Obama couldn’t close a 10% gap with Clinton. Yes, there were some shock twists and turns at the end, but there were some mistakes somewhere along the line if the state couldn’t be turned off Clinton and her pro-N.A.F.T.A. stance.
The demographics slightly favour Clinton as well. The African-American population constitutes 12%, while the Hispanic only 4%, and the Asian 3%. So Obama has an advantage here. But the state has the 3rd highest population of 65+ peoples – a demographic that Clinton still is winning. The poverty rate is also quite high – 11.9% – which shows that the economy is hitting hard economic times. Yet the gross state product ranks the state 6th in the U.S., and the economy is so large that it ranks 17th in the entire world (ahead of Belgium, behind the Netherlands). The per capita gross state product however ranks the state at 26th. This is all because of the high concentration of blue-collar jobs. Only 10 states in the U.S. are more ‘industrialised’ than Pennsylvania. And with Clinton holding a bit of an advantage in the blue-collar and lower-class voters over Obama, she has the advantage here.
A bit of trivia: There is a county in Pennsylvania called ‘The King of Prussia’ – named after an inn in the area.
So with the large amount of delegate at stake with Pennsylvania, and Clinton’s relative advantage, is Obama looking at an unavoidable defeat? Not necessarily. I think that we are looking at another Ohio – but now, Ohio has come and gone, and Obama and his campaign team will have learned from their mistakes. Also, there is the time factor. There are 41 days until voting in the primaries begin. Unfortunately it’s not a caucus, or else we’d be looking at something totally different. Obama fares better when he has period of time to familiarise himself with the voters. He had time between the Hawaii and Wisconsin (February 19) and Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island (March 4) and he was able to peg back 2 20%+ leads that Clinton had and turned one into a 3% win for Clinton and another into a 10% win for Clinton.
The latest polls coming out of Pennsylvania (February 26) show a better prospect for Pennsylvania. 46% to Clinton, 42% for Obama; 49% for Clinton, 43% for Obama. Accept that these will change since the March 4 results. I’d say that Clinton will go up to, say, 52%, Obama down to maybe 40%, in the next poll to be released. But let’s assume, seeings I’ve said they are so much alike, that we get a replication of the Ohio results – 55%/43% split, with a Clinton win. Clinton then gets 91 delegates from the vote, Obama 67. I don’t think that will be the result, I think that it’s going to be a <5% difference either way (depending who has the better 41-day campaign). But let’s run with the Ohio results as the worst case scenario – the delegate count returns to a comparable level that we have now. 1,617 delegate for Obama, 1,530 delegates for Clinton. A 73 delegate difference (we have a 70-80 difference (Obama’s way) at the moment).
I’ll move onto the rest of the race in another post, because it’s getting long now. What I’ll do is finish up with what Obama needs to do for the next week and then the 41-days leading to Pennsylvania. In Wyoming, he can rely on his superior organisation on the ground for caucus, with additional campaigning. He needs to continue his message that has won him the mid-West (Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri) – economics knowledge, nothing radical, and the base message. Probably touch on national security and immigration, but not sit on his Iraq war argument, nor foreign policy, and maybe not that heavy (though do mention it) on the health care debate.
Come Mississippi, he needs to go back to his popular message – hope, inspiration, and change. Talk about universal health care, talk about immigration, and talk about the base message. Here he can rest of his trend of winning the ‘black’ vote, and then try and appeal to the ‘white’ vote in the state. The Iraq war, and his stance on it, should play very well in this Southern state among his targeted voters, so I expect to hear a bit about it. Obama needs to craft his foreign policy image, and provide some real counters and evidence to Clinton’s claims that he has nothing in this field. So I expect to see some about that. I think that the campaigning in Mississippi will be a more of what won him the 12-straight in February.
What I know will happen is that Clinton, after perceiving victory in attacking Obam, will continue it up until next Tuesday, and then stop it. The question is whether Obama will change his campaign (of not relying on attack, rather on message and presentation) for the next 5 days, or will he stay true to his former campaign. I expect some bite from him (some attacking), but seeings he needs to win these next states, and they are the sorts of states he has won before (though he tried and tested campaigning) then he won’t change things around.
Come the lead up to Pennsylvania, I would expect Obama to try the whole attacking campaign. He has enough time to try it, and if he fails, revert back to his old style in time to still make up ground. I think Clinton’s attacking will die off, but come maybe a fortnight from the Pennsylvania vote, it will start up again. If Obama does come out attacking her then I expect she will start up early. If he has well-crafted and good attacks on her, then he will make strong in-roads to Pennsylvania. If not, and they are as superficial as Clinton’s have been, then I expect them to be the 41 most dirty campaigning days on record. What happens after, with the vote, will be too hard to call then.
The good attacks for Obama is calling attention to her support of N.A.F.T.A. (but he does have to defend himself against a memo that ‘people’ (Clinton) are ‘claiming’ says he doesn’t intend to get tough on N.A.F.T.A. at all; he is just positioning himself better). Similarly, in Pennsylvania, I expect to hear the word ‘Iraq’ quite a bit. But also Obama should come out and attack Clinton on universal health care. This has been her topic for a while, but I can see a hole in her argument. For Clinton, you must sign up to a health care provider. Everyone, with no exception. If you don’t, you will be fined. Of course, if you can’t afford to sign up for the health care, you get fined anyway – making it harder to afford. For Obama, he wants universal health care, but isn’t about to fine you if you don’t sign up. He will only make it mandatory for parents to cover children – not that bad of an idea I think. Anyway, Obama should send out an ad that show people not being able to afford the health care, then getting a fine on top of that. What is Clinton’s comeback going to be for that? An ad that shows children getting treated? She’s got nothing, and Obama takes the issue back.
Also, the Obama campaign (and Obama himself) has already started making a big thing about Clinton and her tax returns – specifically, she not letting anyone see them. She must have something to hide if she and her husband had them sealed away in the Clinton Presidential Library, and is stalling the process to get them out in the open. I’m actually very interested to see what they contain now. I wouldn’t have cared had she released them in a timely manner. But now it’s different. She tried to hide them. Obama managed to turn this into the argument that she hasn’t been vetted properly. Many times Clinton has said Obama hasn’t been vetted, while she has been vetted for the past 15 years (which is laughable). With Obama pointing out that no one has seen her tax returns, he is accurately point out that here is something she hasn’t been vetted on, while he has. He can go pretty far with this.
That’s just my theorising about what’s to come. I’ll follow up with the rest of the primary race, from Pennsylvania to convention, in a later post. But for now, this is what I think will happen. I’ll be keeping tabs to see how right (or wrong) I am. But suffice to say, it will be an interesting race for some time. That’s not the best result for the Obama campaign, but here’s an approach that might just get the next best thing.