The Spectacle Blog

Clinton Strategist: It’s Delegates, Stupid

By on 2.13.08 | 1:04PM

Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, just sent out a memo making the case for her path to the nomination. It centers around the fact that she leads in Ohio, Texas, and Pennslyvania--though all the polls cited were taken in January, and do not reflect Obama's latest surge, nor his likely victories in Hawaii and Wisconsin, nor the weeks of campaigning and millions of dollars of ads he will put into Ohio and Texas before March 4., or Pennslyvania on April 22, if necessary.

With that said, here is Penn:

Change Begins March 4th. Hillary leads in the three largest, delegate rich states remaining: Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These three states have 492 delegates - 64 percent of the remaining delegates Hillary Clinton needs to win the nomination. According to the latest polls, Hillary leads in Texas (IVR Jan 30-31), Pennsylvania (Franklin & Marshall Jan 8-14) and Ohio (Columbus Dispatch Jan 23-31). After March 4th, over 3000 delegates will be committed, and we project that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be virtually tied with 611 delegates still to be chosen in Pennsylvania and other remaining states. This does not even include Florida and Michigan (where Hillary won 178 delegates), whose votes we believe should be counted.

The reason Hillary is so strong in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania is that her message of delivering solutions resonates strongly with voters in those states. Hillary is the only candidate who can deliver the economic change voters want - the only candidate with a real plan and a record of fighting for health care, housing, job creation and protecting Social Security.

The demographics in these states also favor Hillary Clinton. Hillary won among white women by 6 points in Virginia and 18 points in Maryland, and white women make up a much bigger share of the electorate in these states (41% of 2004 Ohio Democratic primary voters, for instance, compared with only 33-35% of 2008 Maryland and Virginia Democratic primary voters). Hillary has also won large majorities among Latinos nationwide - 73% in New York, 67% in California, 68% in New Jersey, 62% in New Mexico, 59% in Florida and 55% in Arizona. Latinos made up 24% of Texas Democratic primary voters in 2004, and may be an even larger share in 2008.

Hillary Clinton has shown that she has the ability and organization to compete financially and on the ground. She raised 10 million dollars in just three days last week, and will be competitive with Barack Obama in fundraising and TV advertising from now through March 4th and beyond. She has a strong organization in each of these key states and endorsements from Governor Strickland, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and former Senator John Glenn in Ohio. Hillary had a huge 12,000 person rally in El Paso last night to kick off her Texas campaign.

Again and again, this race has shown that it is voters and delegates who matter, not the pundits or perceived "momentum." After Iowa, every poll gave Barack Obama a strong lead in New Hampshire, but he ended up losing the state. And after a defeat in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton went on to win by large margins in California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

As history shows, the Democratic nomination goes to the candidate who wins the most delegates - not the candidate who wins the most states. In 1992, Bill Clinton lost a string of primaries before clinching the nomination. He ceded Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont and South Dakota. Similarly, in 1984, Walter Mondale also lost a series of major primaries before winning the nomination, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio, and California. And in 1976, Jimmy Carter lost twenty-three states before winning the nomination, including: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah.

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