As we wait to see not whether Hillary Clinton has won this primary, but whether she won enough to shut Obama down (is that more than five? Ten? I can’t quite keep up with the tongue-waggers), it’s fun to look at the breakdown of the exit polling. To me, what jumps out is Clinton’s continued negatives, and at first glance, how much race might have played played a role here.
First off, 67 percent of voters feel that Barack Obama is “trustworthy,” while only 54 percent believe Clinton deserves that label. Two-thirds feel her negative attacks went too far, compared to 49 percent who said the same about Obama. These numbers are pretty much in line with previous primaries. (Though it would be interesting to find out what kind of impact Clinton’s late-breaking “Osama ad” had on the electorate, seeing that some 10 percent claim to have made their decision about who to vote for in the last 24 hours).
As for race, it seems, looking at the numbers, Obama wasn’t the right one for the majority of Pennsylvania voters who said race was an important factor in their voting (almost 20 percent) on Monday:
From CNN: Twenty percent of Pennsylvania Democrats said the race of a candidate played an important role in determining their vote. Clinton won those voters by nearly 20 percentage points, 59 percent to 41 percent.
Twenty percent of voters in neighboring Ohio, which voted last month, also said race helped decide their vote – and went for Clinton by 20 percentage points, 59-39.
Sixty percent of white voters went for Clinton in PA, while over 92 percent of African Americans went for Obama.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure how this will play on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” but it looks like the “elitist” tag Joe Scarborough and others have tried to press on Obama for the last few weeks may have missed its mark. CNN asked, was there fall-out from “Bitter Gate”? Sixty-six percent said Hillary Clinton was “in touch” with “people like them,” while 65 percent said the same about Obama. To be fair, Clinton trounced Obama among gun owners and self-described church-goers, and that was expected.
I’m sure Scarborough and others were poised to pin this Obama loss on Rev. Wright and his unfortunate remarks about guns and god — and perhaps they still will – but I’m hearing the new storyline: that Obama outspent Clinton 3 to 1 (Clinton already mentioned it like three times in her speech) and can’t “seem to close the deal,” with a subhed (perhaps with an acknowledgment of the aforementioned negative indicators) that voters see Clinton as a “real fighter” and that Democrats, looking at what happened to John Kerry in 2004, don’t want to get ambushed in the general election again. There’s something about nice guys finishing last …
UPDATE — The NYT, which endorsed Clinton previously, has already weighed in on Clinton’s tactics, and the emerging “he outspent me” narrative:
It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”