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On Monday, we predicted Clinton’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania: “Clinton will win by eight points—just high enough for her to stick around, just low enough for Obama supporters to claim she’s done.” As it turns out, we were off; it was more like 10 points. But our conclusion still stands: Clinton now has an excuse to drag her delegate-hemorrhaging candidacy around for a few more weeks. But despite the gloomy prospects, we’re hiking her chances of winning the nomination up 0.8 points to 10.7 percent.
Why the raise? Two words: popular vote. As we and everyone who can read knows, Clinton has no shot of closing Obama’s pledged-delegate lead. Her candidacy therefore depends on convincing superdelegates to vote for her despite that lead. But vague claims of “electability” aren’t enough. She needs numbers on her side, and the popular vote is her last shot at beating Obama by a legitimate metric. With Pennsylvania under her belt—the primary netted her a little more than 200,000 votes—Clinton now trails Obama by about 500,000, according to RealClearPolitics. And that’s before the spin. If you count Florida’s and Michigan’s votes, which she no doubt will, Obama’s popular-vote lead shrinks to about 100,000. Whether or not she closes that gap, she’s close enough to argue that they’re tied.
Plus, this buys Clinton time to push her other talking points: She wins “big states” (which of course has no discernable bearing on general-election viability). She commands coalitions necessary to win the presidency in November. She is more “electable” than Obama against McCain. These arguments don’t hold much water in the face of electoral math, but, then again, superdelegates aren’t quite rational creatures.
Unfortunately, Clinton is still broke. FEC reports released yesterday showed that her campaign started April in the red, and that was before the Pennsylvania advertising blitzkrieg. Once the networks called the state for Clinton, a spokesman fired off an e-mail announcing she had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in 20 minutes. The number was up to $2.5 million as of 11:30 p.m. That’s good news, but remember that every Clinton fundraising number has been methodically eclipsed by the Obama money machine. Who knows: This time could be different.
Next up: Indiana. Recent polls are indecisive, but Clinton has reason to fear Obama in the Hoosier State, where basketball chops are as important as stimulus packages. North Carolina, meanwhile, is about as suspenseful as a double-headed coin toss.