Six weeks ago, Hillary Clinton won Ohio by ten percentage points. Tuesday night, she won Ohio’s equally bitter neighbor to the east by ten percentage points. The voting blocks she relied upon to win the two states are the same: Hillary Clinton was twice carried to victory by white voters, female voters, and voters lacking a college education. Barack Obama made headway with older voters, but saw young voter turnout drop. He also gained among independents, but fewer of them turned out to the polls. Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania because she successfully defended her base for the six weeks between the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 and the PA primary Tuesday.
According to CNN exit polls, women were huge for Clinton in both contests. They were 59 percent of Democratic voters in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, and she won 57 percent of female voters in both contests. White women were particularly important for Clinton. In both states, two-thirds of white women voted for her.
Obama could point to a modest five point jump among white men and four point jump among whites overall. It did not help Obama that the white vote in Pennsylvania was slightly larger than it was in Ohio (80 percent to 76 percent), and the black vote slightly smaller.
In Ohio, those lacking a college education went 58-40 for Clinton. In Pennsylvania, the numbers were a nearly identical 58-42. It’s hard to then point to correlations in under $50,000/over $50,000 voting groups (often, voters lacking a college degree and voters making less than $50,000 show identical trends, indicating that they are in fact the same voters), because Clinton won both income groups Pennsylvania, as she did in Ohio. White collar Pennsylvanians were no more receptive to Obama than their blue collar counterparts.
In Ohio, independent voters nearly split down the middle, going 50-48 for Obama. In Pennsylvania, indies were more completely in Obama’s camp, going 55-45 for the Illinois Senator. The problem? Independent turnout dropped eight percent. Both Ohio and Pennsylvania were closed primaries, meaning independents were able to vote in the Democratic race only if they were registered as Democrats.
Obama’s only substantial gain was among older voters. In Ohio, he took a meager 28 percent of voters over 60 years of age. In Pennsylvania, he added 10 additional percent to that figure. The fact that Clinton still won the elderly vote, which comprised one-third of all voters, by a margin of 62-38 meant that Obama was going to have a hard time winning the primary, but an Obama camp desperate for positive indicators can look at the success of their elderly outreach.
But they have to be disappointed by their youth outreach. Voters under 24 years of age, which includes the vast majority of the college demographic, were just six percent of the vote last night. Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s older states, but that’s no excuse. In Ohio, voters under 29 were 16 percent of the electorate. In Pennsylvania, they were just 12 percent.
A note on how Clinton won. In Ohio, just over half of voters thought Clinton had attacked unfairly. But six weeks later, after Jeremiah Wright and “bitter”-gate had hit the headlines, that number had jumped to over two-thirds. But the negative attacks didn’t hurt the most important numbers — she still won the state by 10 points, and the same number of voters, 26 percent, say they would be disgruntled if she took the Democratic nomination.
While the Obama campaign tried to point to a largely unchanged delegate count and look ahead to the next primaries (“The bottom line is that the Pennsylvania outcome does not change dynamic of this lengthy primary. While there were 158 delegates at stake there, there are fully 157 up for grabs in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries on May 6.”), the Clinton campaign was jubilant in Philadelphia last night, and they were pushing the never-say-die storyline. Speaking before Clinton, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter pressed the point in excitedly incoherent fashion, saying Clinton was the “the comeback kid, come-from-behind, every-day-and-in-every-way Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is back.” Governor Ed Rendell said Clinton’s victory was so shocking that it was “an earthquake so large it’s going to shake up American politics.” He said that every time the media tries to write Clinton’s “political obituary,” she comes back from the dead.
Clinton herself embraced the storyline of the evening, saying “the tide is turning.” “You know,” she said, “the pundits question whether Pennsylvanians would trust me with this charge and tonight you showed you do. You know you can count on me to stand up strong for you every single day in the White House.”
What’s funny about the Clinton campaign’s message is that Clinton never trailed in Pennsylvania. One month ago, she was leading in the state by 15 percent, and she won Tuesday by 10 percent, hardly what practitioners of math would call a comeback. But the wielders of spin are not the same as the wielders of calculators. With the delegate math pointing to a foregone conclusion in the Democratic primary race for weeks, even months, it’s clear who holds more sway.