The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Pollster

The Pa. Expectations Game

Sen. Barack Obama greets customers at Pamela's diner in the Strip District April 22, 2008 in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)

By Jon Cohen
It is zero hour in Pennsylvania, and another opportunity to test the mettle of pollsters taking last minute reads of Democratic primary voters.

The polls become particularly important at this late date in the primary cycle, as so much of the post-election analysis will hinge on how the candidates perform tonight relative to expectations -- expectations that come largely from such pre-election polls, as well as results of previous exit polls.

And what do we (think we) know?

Publicly released polls of varying methodologies put the Democratic race at anywhere from Clinton +13 to Obama +3. Limiting the scope to traditional telephone polls with live interviewers, Clinton's late lead appears to be in the five to seven point range.

One wild card, of course, is the undecided voter, who as a group made up as many as one in eight likely voters in the LA Times-Bloomberg poll released last week. In four out the last five primaries, including Texas and Ohio, late deciders broke for Clinton by wide margins, and an analysis of those who were undecided in Pennsylvania three weeks ago showed them tilting toward Clinton (as did those who has expressed a candidate preference). But much has changed in the final weeks and days of previous contests, and Obama is heavily outspending Clinton in the Keystone state .

The Ohio primary created another bundle of expectations for the Clinton campaign. In many ways, the demographics of the Ohio Democratic electorate mirror those of the Pennsylvania voters likely to cast ballots today, and some of the voting patterns in this year's Democratic contests have fallen neatly along demographic lines. (For a detailed look at the demographic prediction game, check out Gary Langer's blog post from yesterday.) Clinton won the popular vote in Ohio by 10 percentage points.

Taken together, the "priors," as pollsters call them, point to a Clinton win by five to 10 points. But hang on for the spin from both sides, regardless of tonight's outcome.

Posted at 10:54 AM ET on Apr 22, 2008  | Category:  The Pollster
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If I lived in PA and the way some of these folks talk about you, darn if I would vote for Obama. They keep referring to PA folks as being dumb and some of the smartest people I know are from PA. You folks on these forums should lay off the people from PA. You are hurting your candidate. Show some class yourself.

Posted by: hungrymama | April 25, 2008 2:22 PM

Way to go Hillary, keep getting those votes from the under educated, boomer ladies with no morals. It's going to be hard to lie your way out of the upcoming Clinton fraud trial, which takes place just before the general election.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2008 11:21 AM

Independent voters weren't allowed to vote in the Pa primary... I listened to HRC victory words and I thought she was going to start the tears again. So why so sad? Didn't you just win a state you sold a pack of lies to and it worked. Then in "the victory speech" SHE asks for MONEY... Totally sad. The Wall Street finally put BHO's speech on-line and talk about a home run. WTG Obama!!! Wonderful speech and tough as nails. Thank you BHO for talking to the heart of Americans in Indiana. They loved it and to listen to them one would think you'd won the primary in Pa by 25%. lol Go Indiana... Go Obama! It totally amazes me how HRC's campaign continuously copies BHO's campaign and her voters we chanting "yes we can". HRC come up with your own ideas and campaign. Unbelievable. So the Clintons don't tell the truth and steal minds with negative campaigning and set the example for their voters to now steal BHO's campaign slogan. I then had a chance to watch the rally in Indiana on MSNBC and watched BHO give a homerun with bases loaded speech to Indiana. So thank you Wall Street Journal and MSNBC for posting on the internet. And it's dated so when HRC starts stealing from your speeches, people just look in the archives. I mean BHO covered EVERYTHING. Go Obama all the way!!!

Posted by: lilms | April 23, 2008 12:29 AM

Quote from the latest news"

"As expected, Pennsylvania's Democratic voters were overwhelmingly white and -- as usual in Democratic contests -- there were more women than men. About three in 10 were age 65 or over. Nearly half were from families that earned less than $50,000 last year."

Thank goodness that I don't live in Pennsylvania!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2008 7:36 PM

Quote: "Obama has already lost"

Really, that's not what the polls show:
SurveyUSA interviewed 600 registered voters in each of the 50 states. A total of 30,000 interviews were completed. If John McCain faces Barack Obama, Obama wins 280 to 256. McCain carries 26 states. Obama carries 24 states plus the District of Columbia ... and then there is Nebraska, which divides its electoral votes based on which candidate wins each of the state's congressional districts. McCain wins Nebraska 45% to 42%, but loses in two of the state's three congressional districts, which results in Barack Obama taking two of Nebraska's five electoral votes.

Typical Clinton supporter who thinks if they repeat a lie often enough it might just stick with someone.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2008 6:54 PM

"Nothing can change the fact that without his teleprompter Obama is as speechless as a wooden dummy."

Hmmm, funny, in the last debate Hillary sat there with a stupid look on her face and it was Obama had the initiative to actually answer the question. The kind of person that I want for president is the one that takes initiative and doesn't sit there with a stupid look on their face and wait for someone else to do something.

Posted by: Hillary is a Clown | April 22, 2008 5:45 PM

I am ashamed that the first woman to run for president cannot tell the truth. I thought Bill was the liar in the family when he looked into the television camera and said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Hillary, you are just as good a liar as Bill. Forget the presidency. Our country deserves better.

Posted by: older white lady | April 22, 2008 5:36 PM

What constitutes a win?

Anything but a blow-out in favor of Obama.

Here's why.

Obama has already lost.

Nothing can change the fact that Obama is unelectable in general election.

Nothing can change the fact that Obama froze during the debates.

Nothing can change the fact that Obama doesn't know what he's talking about, and has shown it in every debate.

Nothing can change the fact that it is to David Axelrod's credit that Obama has gotten this far.

Nothing can change the fact that without his teleprompter Obama is as speechless as a wooden dummy.

Nothing can change the fact that Obama's campaign hss been based on Clinton bashing and vague promises of "change" that are just a code word for "throw out anyone older than you"

Nothing can change the fact that Obama is like Gertrude Stein's famous house in Oakland --- There is no "there" there.

Nothing can change the fact that Democrats can see the same things that Republicans can, and that it that Obama is not fit to be President of the United States of America.

What constitutes a win.

Hillary has already won.

She's shown that she's got "the right stuff"

So does John McCain.

Obama has already lost by showing he doesn't.

Obama can't win.

He can only cause Democrats to lose.

Posted by: Obama's already lost | April 22, 2008 5:10 PM

This 73 year old Ph.D. from Northeastern PA is voting for OBAMA! He is a fresh breath of air. Rendell's future is looking bleak.

Posted by: hlk | April 22, 2008 4:32 PM

Posted by: Truth Seeker | April 22, 2008 3:21 PM

plaidsportscoat-LOL! :-D

I heard Genetic Testing proved Barack Hussein is actually 51% WHITE! :-(


Truth, his name is VERY appropriate. Mixtures of African(Especially Muslim) and European(Caucasian), are commonly referred to as ARABS! Middle Easterner at least!

He is a First, so he is the Prophet Obasama leading his followers the Obasamamites;


Posted by: RAT-The | April 22, 2008 2:01 PM

There is no way that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee unless the super-delegates are crazier than I think. They will think on it and say "her husband (on whom she bases her experience) will be on trial for fraud in California. She will be called to testify. That's the perfect way for the republicans to win the White House again. Nope, we'll go with Obama, no matter what".

Yep, the trial is scheduled to take place just before the general election, and she will be toast.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2008 1:47 PM

white racists, of which there are many more than black racists, as black people are ten percent of the population, vote for hillary or anyone not black. black racists vote for obama, possibly. there are so many more white racists and white people own more biznesses and therefore have more power to NOT hire black people, etcetera, etcetera. it's not honest for hillary to never address her white racist voters and the fact that they might even be the reason she wins wherever she wins. there are only a few places where black voters put obama over the edge-in fact that would only be in a place where the majority of the pop. is black. no state has that, so he is uniting and she is dividing by race, the way it looks from here. obama has talked about this stuff to a degree. hillary has NEVER ADDRESSED and NEVER SAID "don't just vote for me because you don't want a black person in office because you don't want black people to feel and be empowered" - especially when she's speaking to the racist demographic - which her pollsters are 100 percent aware which people are that demographic, when she places ads and when she talks points to them. Has obama ever said don't vote for me because you prefer a man over a woman? I don't know.

Posted by: plaidsportcoat | April 22, 2008 1:45 PM

The Pennsylvania Primary has met my expectations: the democrats have shredded each other and destroyed any chance of the party winning in November.

Good one Hillary,

First, she hurst Al Gore by sucking up the media attention in 2000, then she leads a charge in 2004 against Howard Dean - now she is destroying Obama.

Anyone see a pattern here?

Hillary is resposible for losing 3 straight Presidential elections.

AND Gennifer Flowers should get the credit for the first win.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | April 22, 2008 1:35 PM

I voted today. I voted for Obama, and for every delegate pledged to Obama. I think he has the nomination and so I want to see this primary end. Thus my undecided vote fell into Obama's camp.

Posted by: MIke M | April 22, 2008 1:30 PM

I would like to inject a sense of realism into a passionate and often ugly debate that rages here on Wapo blog boards on a daily basis. Truth is truth, and math does not lie. In order for Hillary to win the nomination she MUST win ALL the remaining 10 states by a margin of at least 12-14 percentage points (62-64%) and then she must win 64% of the superdelegates. All this talk back and forth cannot change the math. Hillary's efforts to get the nomination will be an exhaustive uphill battle. Before all you Hillary folks start to jump down my throat you should know I LOVE Hillary. I am constantly pleading for unity within the Dem party. I do not have a bias. What I have is a calculator, and a willingness to add things up the way they are, not the way I want them to be. Use this delegate calculator below and do the math yourself. Adjust the slider to 62-64% wins from here on out and see what you get. The delegate count used is the same as MSNBC and CNN

Posted by: feastorafamine | April 22, 2008 1:28 PM

Gosh, Zogby in an interview called Clinton a placeholder for John McCain in the parts of Pennsylvania that don't like Obama.

I wonder how she likes being a placeholder for John McCain.

Posted by: Gaias Child | April 22, 2008 1:22 PM

The bin Laden ad should ring an alarm bell with voters. Here is a Republican in sheepskin. If the ads are Republican, if McCain according to Clinton has better credentials - should this not ring some alarm bells?

Posted by: Rolf Ernst | April 22, 2008 1:06 PM

How she of all people can talk about or show an image of bin laden! Her husband wouldn't take him when the Sudan government tried to hand him over! He wouldn't take him when the Taliban tried to give him over! He fired millions of dollars worth of missiles at him and wasn't even close! The only time Bill Clinton looked more guilty, after 911, was with Monica! Hillary has make a joke of the democratic party!

Posted by: Chris D | April 22, 2008 1:01 PM

Again with the mention of Texas. Clinton LOST in Texas. Obama won the most delegates. The primaries, where she won slightly, don't mean a thing here. We have the Texas Two Step, set up by the democratic party. IF YOU VOTED IN THE PRIMARY, you could attend the caucus where Obama won in a landslide and won the most delegates in Texas. Sorry, media and Clinton supporters. Sorry, if Clinton supporters didn't want to stand in the cold for two hours or more to caucus after voting in the primary.
Those are the facts, look it up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2008 12:48 PM

NEWS FLASH- Preview!

In the Predominantly Black Districts "Something" happened to the ability to vote on time during normal Hours!

Liberal Judge authorizes Extended Voting Hours!

You heard it here, even before it happened!

At RAT-News! ;~)

Posted by: RAT-The | April 22, 2008 12:30 PM

After Hillary's last minute GOP styled ads you'd think that independent voters would say "ENOUGH" and swing for Obama.

One could only hope.

Posted by: Sparky | April 22, 2008 12:22 PM

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