The Hillary Deathwatch

Despite a flurry of attacks, Clinton holds steady in Pennsylvania.

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Despite a flurry of negative ads from both sides, Hillary Clinton’s Pennsylvania lead holds steady. So with no clear ups or downs, we’re putting her chances of winning the nomination at 9.9 percent.

If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Both Clinton and Barack Obama chucked that philosophy out the window long ago, but this weekend marked the nastiness apex, as Clinton aired an attack ad responding to an attack ad by Obama responding to an attack ad by Clinton. (Followed by Clinton’s “closing argument” ad.) The ads mostly rehashed old battles over lobbyist money and health care but with renewed vigor. Neither candidate comes out on top, but the mudslinging hurts Obama more since it undermines his entire “new politics” message. He claims Clinton’s attacks have forced him to throw elbows, but in our experience, “she hit me first” stopped being a valid excuse after second grade.

Obama made yet another “gaffe” over the weekend when he said that “either Democrat would be better than John McCain, and all three of us would be better than George Bush.” Not quite on message—Obama’s campaign has been painting McCain as Bush 3.0—but hardly a devastating blunder. Obama can always point out that “better than Bush” isn’t much of a compliment. Also, recall that Clinton said McCain had passed “the commander in chief threshold” whereas Obama had not.

On the superdelegate front, Obama is still closing the gap but slower than before. Today he picks up Ohio DNC member Enid Goubeaux. But Clinton racked up three more supers at the end of last week—Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton and two New Jersey ex-governors. That gives Clinton 262 to Obama’s 237. Supers are now watching to see what happens in Pennsylvania.

So what will happen? All of the most recent polls except one show Clinton with a six-to-10 point lead over Obama—roughly the same as Clinton’s lead over the past few weeks. The outlier, a PPP poll, puts Obama three points ahead. But it’s possible these polls understate Obama’s support, given the massive numbers of newly registered Democrats. (About 217,000 new voters, largely Democrats, have registered since January. More than 178,000 voters have switched their party affiliation, overwhelmingly in favor of Dems.) It’s hard to say if that will be enough for Obama to cut into Clinton’s margin in any significant way. But that, as they say, is why they play the game.

In endorsement news, Obama wins the blessing of the Salmon Lady. The Financial Times may not be the chosen paper of Pennsylvania’s white working class, but the timing is still good for Obama, who will take all the help he can get.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Clinton needs to win by about 10 points in Pennsylvania in order to stay in the race. Her campaign puts the number around one point. What this means, of course, is that 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. You heard it here first!

For a full list of our Deathwatches, click here. For a primer on Hillary’s sinking ship, visit our first Deathwatch entry. Send your own prognostications to