All the papers lead with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s decisive win in the Pennsylvania primary. With nearly all the votes counted, Clinton led Sen. Barack Obama by 10 percentage points. There seems to be a consensus that this margin of victory is exactly within the range of what Clinton needed to stay in the race but fell short of a landslide that could have really changed the shape of the contest. The Los Angeles Timesreports that out of the 158 delegates that could have been won yesterday, Clinton got at least 66, Obama gained 57, and the rest still have to be awarded. After weeks of intense campaigning, it’s clear that interest in the race remains high, and the Washington Postpoints out that more than 2 million Democrats voted yesterday, which is “nearly triple the number who turned out in the past two presidential primaries in the state.”
Even though it seems nearly impossible for Clinton to catch up to Obama as far as the pledged delegates are concerned, her victory “does reinforce questions she has raised about whether the Illinois senator can appeal to white working-class voters and carry the big industrial states,” says USA Today. The New York Timespoints out that Clinton “used the words ‘fight,’ ‘fighter’ and ‘fighting’ repeatedly” in her victory speech “to convey that she had the resolve and confidence to stay in the race.” But there’s already been plenty of fighting, and if there’s one conclusion everyone can agree on, it is that the long campaign in Pennsylvania “left both candidates bloody,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it.
Clinton won in Pennsylvania by relying on her base of whites, women, older voters, and the less affluent, which allows her to continue questioning whether Obama can win with voters who have always been essential for Democrats. “Considering his financial advantage, the question ought to be, why can’t he close the deal?” Clinton asked yesterday. While it’s true that Obama didn’t manage to make many inroads among white, working-class voters despite the fact that he vastly outspent Clinton in advertising, the LAT says it’s significant that he didn’t lose support among that group “even after navigating some of the worst weeks of the campaign so far.” And Clinton still clearly faces an uphill battle if she hopes to convince superdelegates that Obama is a flawed candidate. The Post’s Dan Balz says that “even some of her most loyal supporters privately expressed doubts last night that she can prevail.”
The NYT points out that Obama seems determined to use his financial advantage “to overwhelm” Clinton in the next few contests. And Clinton let that be known yesterday to her supporters, telling them that she needed their help. “We can only keep winning if we can keep competing against an opponent who outspends us so massively,” she said. Her campaign said she received $2.5 million in a few hours after Pennsylvania was called in her favor.
All eyes are now on Indiana, which votes on May 6, and each candidate has reason to be hopeful because it has an important blue-collar constituency but also shared media markets with Illinois, which means many Democrats in the state “have known Obama for several years,” says the LAT.
Exit polls demonstrated that the deeply negative turn that the campaign took in the past few weeks has hurt both candidates. Most of those who voted for Obama said they don’t think Clinton is honest, while Clinton voters had similar negative feelings about Obama. There are several statistics from exit polls that will undoubtedly lead to much hand-wringing among Democrats. The WSJ points out that around 25 percent of Clinton’s supporters said they would vote for Sen. John McCain rather than Obama, while 16 percent of Obama’s supporters claim to prefer the presumptive Republican nominee to the former first lady. The NYT notes that exit polls seem to provide “stark evidence” that Obama’s race could really hurt his chances in a general election. A total of 16 percent of whites said race matters, and a mere 54 percent of those voters said they would pull the lever for Obama if he’s the nominee.
Obama might also begin to face problems from people who flocked to him because of his positive tone but could get turned off by the increasingly negative nature of the campaign. The WP points out that in the last few weeks, “the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics – hopeful, positive and inspiring – saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania.” And the negativity will probably intensify in the coming weeks. A Democratic strategist says that Obama’s camp is likely to bring up more controversies from Bill Clinton’s presidency (cattle futures, anyone?) before Indiana in order to try to close up the race as soon as possible. (Slate’s John Dickerson warns: “For those in the Democratic Party who are worried that the race has gotten too ugly, it looks like it’s going to get even uglier.”)
As has become the norm, all the papers have quotes from Democrats who just want the contest to end because all this infighting is raising both of the candidates’ negative ratings before the real campaign against McCain even begins. “Anybody who says past this point that this is good for the party or good for the nominee is a fool,” a Democratic strategist tells the LAT. Guess that means the WSJ’s Gerald Seib is a fool, then, because he argues exactly that point today. “Toughness and resilience are important attributes, and that is what a long campaign instills in a candidate,” Seib writes.
In other news, the LAT says Sunni militants were responsible for several attacks across Iraq that killed 22 people. Most significantly, a suicide truck bomb killed two U.S. Marines and 10 Iraqis in Anbar province, and al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility. “The killings underscored the threat still posed by Sunni insurgent groups,” notes the WP.
The WP fronts the World Food Program director calling the constant rise in food prices a “silent tsunami” that could have devastating effects around the world. There’s not much new here, except that the WFP gave figures that illustrate the challenges of trying to keep up with the seemingly nonstop inflation in food prices. Two months ago, the WFP said it needed $500 million to fill its “food gap,” but now that number has increased to $755 million.
The NYT fronts a look at how Rupert Murdoch is making moves to increase his power over the New York media market. For the first time since buying the WSJ, Murdoch will have the chance to appoint the top editor at the paper since Marcus Brauchli resigned yesterday. In addition, the mogul is also hoping to close a deal to buy the Long Island-based Newsday for $580 million. Murdoch not only hopes to gain control over a big chunk of the New York tabloid market, he also hopes the move will allow him to consolidate operations with the New York Post, which currently loses about $50 million a year.
During oral arguments in the Supreme Court case about the so-called “Millionaires’ Amendment,” which sets special rules for candidates running against wealthy opponents, a lawyer had a laugh at the expense of a ghost from earlier primaries. “And certainly the public was not particularly interested in Mitt Romney, who spent a significant amount of money on his own behalf, and many other spectacular flameouts,” the lawyer said. There was laughter, but the chief justice would have none of it: “I’m not sure we need characterizations of the political candidates … in this forum.”