On March 16, some 9 days ago when campaigning in Pennsylvania became the primary topic for the Democrat’s race, I outlined what I thought Barack Obama should do in the state in order to put in a competitive showing and make any claims Clinton has to ‘deserving’ the Democratic nomination even less believable. One of those things was to get out and hit the footpaths – especially the rural areas. Why the rural areas? Because Clinton’s domination in these areas across the country, and especially in Ohio, has seen her jag some wins and some delegates. By beating her in her only strengths, or at least putting pressure on her to keep her away from Obama’s strong areas, means that the results will be tight.
What did I see announced today then? That Obama is planning exactly that for the next few days:
In a sign that Mr. Obama, who is behind in the polls here, is going to contest the state vigorously, his campaign announced today that he would tour the state by bus, just like in Iowa. His tour is to start Friday in Western Pennsylvania and work its way east by Wednesday.
Similarly, as one would expect (as I did), the Clinton campaign will now have to turn its attention away from the urban areas where Obama dominates, and towards maintaining her strength in the rural area:
The Clinton camp has also been planning a bus tour here but has not announced its plans yet.
As the article pointed out, this is the approach that Obama and his team took to Iowa – a state he shocked some people (not your’s truly) and pulled out the big win. If anyone has watched The West Wing (a show whose second-last season mirrors this primary election to the letter ‘t’!) knows that the eventual winner, Mathew Santos (a Latino (minority) senator who is running against two established favourites, and is all but written off before the voting starts) took the same approach – the county bus tour. It might seem cliche, or a thing of the movies, but it is effective none-the-less.
On a side note, the writers and producers of The West Wing said that part of Matt Santos is based of a politician that they saw give the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address – a one Barack Obama.
Before that divergence, I was going to say that the bus tour is probably the most effect approach for Obama at this moment in Pennsylvania. Everyone still knows that the longer Obama has to establish himself in a state the better he performs. While big rallies and campaign speeches in big cities are good for getting ‘the masses’ of the urban areas behind you, it doesn’t work in the rural sectors. People are spaced out, there aren’t big concentrations of people like state capitals.
And now, with the same article reporting that a record 4,044,952 people have registered with the Democratic party to vote in the primary, there are a lot of people to win over. In Pennsylvania, to vote in the primaries for the Democratic party, you must have registered 30 days prior to the vote. Thus, both campaigns were out working the people hard to get them to at least register – then the fighting for voters begins.
People with an eye on the primary race have always said that Obama has had the more effective ground ‘troops’ out of all the candidates of both parties. Assuming this to be true (and we don’t have much evidence to prove it the opposite), I would hedge a bet that Obama’s performance is going to be closer to Clinton’s than what the polls are suggesting. He will have had a better network of people out there, registering voters. Similarly, with his bus tour, he will be finding his way into the counties that are the most competitive, which could push him to a ‘win’ (in which he loses the vote, but out-performs expectations).
What is also an important number to come out of Pennsylvania is that the Republicans have only 3,215,478 registered voters – a more than 800,000 difference! While this certainly doesn’t rule Pennsylvania into the Democrats column of victories come November, it does lend support to the Democrats’ efforts in one of the most hotly contested swing states. With 21 electoral college votes, it’s a pretty big win to get.
The article linked to previously said that there were 120,000 new voters that registered, while over 86,000 voters switched from other political parties to the Democratic party. The Republicans managed to bring over, from other parties, only 12,000. Some more interesting figures.
So with all of this, the real campaigning – the campaigning for the registered voters – begins. The campaign teams know how many people are up for grabs, and where they are. It’s time the candidates go out and rally for the votes. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Obama bus tour to see if he starts talking about the sorts of things that I outlined in my previous post (election maths, playing down his expectations, etc.). The race for Pennsylvania is officially underway.