Not-So-Great Expectations

Yesterday we noted how Obama’s recent gap-closing in Pennsylvania would force the Clinton campaign to adjust the goal posts a bit. Team Clinton held a conference call this morning, and, lo, it came to pass.

Communications director Howard Wolfson said during the call that contrary to media analysis, “a win is a win” for Clinton. In other words, there’s no point spread. Wolfson argued that Obama is campaigning hard in the state, outspending her 4-to-1, and that his campaign “expects to win Pennsylvania.”

To understand the problem with that argument—aside from the fact, given Keystone demographics, that no one expects or ever expected Obama to win—you have to look at why people are saying Clinton needs to win big in Pennsylvania.

For one thing, she desperately needs the delegates. A mere win—as opposed to a big win—isn’t going to net her that many. She currently trails Obama by 164 pledged delegates, according to MSNBC . Even winning Pennsylvania by a 10-point margin, as in Ohio, would only net her about 18 delegates more than Obama. Meanwhile, Obama would still be far ahead in pledged delegates as well as total delegates.

Then there’s the popular vote. If Clinton doesn’t win the popular vote, she’s going to have a tough time convincing superdelegates to vote for her. Clinton backer and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said today that he reserves the right to switch to Obama if Clinton doesn’t win the popular vote. (He also said she needs a ” big win ” in Pennsylvania to stay in the race.) Obama currently leads by 800,000 votes, according to Real Clear Politics . Nothing but a major victory in Pennsylvania is going to begin to close that gap. Of course, the popular vote is a messy number , and the Clinton camp will probably find its own way of counting. (Including Florida and Michigan, say, or disregarding caucuses.) But number-bending will only work for so long, especially if supers like Corzine are already getting antsy.