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Pa. Primary: Winners and Losers

The Fix loves the day after an election. There's data to sift, spin to analyze, and future contests to contemplate. Election nights often clarify, sometimes confuse but very rarely disappoint.

Just twelve hours or so after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) scored what looks to be a 55 percent to 45 percent victory over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in Pennsylvania, the debate over whether her win is enough to change the dynamic of the race has begun in earnest.

That argument is only just beginning, but before we focus too much on what's to come in the Democratic race, we thought it would be instructive to look at what happened last night and pick a few winners and losers.

As always, these picks are selective and meant to be a conversation starter. Agree with the Fix picks? Disagree? The comments section is open for business.

WINNERS

White Women: Clinton's most reliable constituency throughout the nomination fight delivered for her again in Pennsylvania. White women made up nearly 50 percent of all voters and went for Clinton 66 percent to 34 percent. Clinton will need white women to back her at similar (or even higher) levels to win the next must-have state for her candidacy: Indiana.

Ed Rendell: Say what you will about the governor of Pennsylvania -- and, believe us, we've heard it all -- he delivered for Clinton yesterday. Rendell's machine in the Philadelphia area helped keep Clinton competitive in an area where she needed to keep Obama's margin down. In Philadelphia County Obama won 65 percent to 35 percent -- a solid but not massive victory. In the suburbs that ring the city Clinton claimed Bucks (63 percent) and Montgomery (51 percent) counties and lost Delaware (55 percent) and Chester (55 percent) counties. Rendell, who is still thought of in southeastern Pennsylvania as the mayor of the City of Brotherly Love, deserves credit for those showings. [View our County-by-County Results Map]

The bin-Laden Ad: Decried by many Democrats as over the top, Clinton's ad featuring the world's most famous terrorist is likely to be given credit in the after-action analysis for swaying undecided voters in the final days of the campaign. Much like in Ohio and Texas, the Pennsylvania exit polls suggested that Clinton won late deciders overwhelmingly; among the 11 percent who made up their mind on primary day, Clinton bested Obama 59 percent to 41 percent, while among those who made up their mind in the final three days, Clinton won 58 percent to 42 percent. Is all of that late movement due to the bin-Laden ad? No. But, it was surely a factor.

Guns/Religion Voters: The focus of a huge amount of attention following Obama's comments at a San Francisco fundraiser a few weeks ago, these cultural conservative voters made sure their voice was heard on Tuesday. Nearly four in ten voters said they had a gun in their home and Clinton won that bloc 62 percent to 38 percent. Among the 36 percent of voters who said they attend church weekly, Clinton scored a 16 point victory; those who go to religious services occasionally mirrored Clinton's overall margin in the state, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Political Junkies: Make no mistake: We are witnessing an election for the ages. When the Fix is bouncing his grandchildren on his knee, it will be this election he is telling them about. (And, they will be enraptured since its impossible for The Fix's offspring not to carry the political junkie gene.) Take a step back and enjoy this election. We won't see its like for a long, long time.

Evan Bayh: The Indiana senator now gets the vice presidential tryout he has always wanted. Deliver Indiana for Clinton on May 6 and he jumps to the front of the line -- behind only Obama -- in the vice presidential sweepstakes if the New York Senator becomes the nominee. We have heard for years the stories of just how popular Bayh is in the Hoosier State; the next few weeks will test that theory.

LOSERS

Money: One of the most fascinating storylines in this campaign -- Democratic and Republican -- is that the best funded candidate doesn't always win. Sen. John McCain's (Ariz.) come from behind victory in the Republican race was fueled more by the Arizona senator's life story and personal appeal than by any fundraising edge. Similarly, Obama badly outspent Clinton in both Ohio and Pennsylvania only to lose both by double digits. Money is important but, at least at the presidential level, clearly not determinative.

Negativity: The sniping over flag lapel pins, the Weather Underground and other controversies in the final days of the campaign clearly turned many voters off. More than seven in ten voters thought that Clinton had attacked Obama "unfairly," while 50 percent said the same of Obama. Interestingly, the 44 percent of voters who said each candidate attacked the other unfairly gave Clinton 65 percent and Obama 35 percent; those who said neither candidate attacked the other unfairly gave Clinton an even wider margin -- she won them 70 percent to 30 percent.

House Republicans: Lost amid the focus on the Pennsylvania race was the fact that a Democrat in Mississippi's 1st District nearly claimed a rock-ribbed Republican seat last night. Prentiss County Chancellor Clerk Travis Childers (D), who took 49.4 percent of the vote, advances to a May 13 special election runoff against former Southhaven Mayor Greg Davis (R), who received 46.3 percent of the vote. A win by Childers next month would create an earthquake in the House playing field as scads of Republicans considered safe would be put on notice. For a campaign committee already under significant financial strain, a broadened playing field is the worst nightmare for strategists at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The Economy: President Bush asserts that the country is not in a recession but Democrats in Pennsylvania made clear they disagree. Forty seven percent said America was in the midst of a "moderate" recession, while 42 percent called it a "serious" recession. Just 11 percent of voters agreed with the president's contention that the economy has slowed but has not entered a recession. Given how many voters (55 percent) said the economy was the most important issue facing the country, it's hard to see it not being front and center in the debate this fall -- bad news for Republicans.

John Edwards: It seems as though the former North Carolina senator is genuinely conflicted about whether to back Clinton or Obama. With his home state set to matter in the nominating fight, Edwards will come under considerable pressure to make a decision before May 6. Will he? And does it matter?

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 23, 2008; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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