Clinton: Pa. a Must-Win State
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 4:38 PM
Pennsylvania voters went to the polls today in the largest remaining Democratic primary as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama continued sniping at each other over politics and policies, arguing over such topics as negative campaigning and the use of military force against Iran.
Clinton (N.Y.), the favorite in Pennsylvania in pre-primary polls, acknowledged this morning that she has to win the state but insisted that the margin of victory does not matter. Obama (Ill.), who has heavily outspent Clinton in Pennsylvania, said he does not expect to overcome his rival's lead in the polls but hopes to make the contest close, ensuring his continued strong lead in the all-important delegate count.
Polling places in the Democratic primary opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time and were scheduled to close at 8 p.m.
Turnout was "quite strong" this morning in Philadelphia, the state's largest city, but appeared "spottier" in the suburbs, said Zack Stalberg, president of an election watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy. "The Obama people were counting on a good result from the suburbs," he said. "I'm not sure if they're going to get that."
The committee received a "routine number" of complaints about voting machine breakdowns and other glitches, but no major problems were reported, Stalberg said.
At stake in today's primary are 158 pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in late August, where 2,025 delegate votes are needed to secure the party's presidential nomination.
Obama currently leads Clinton by about 140 delegates, and neither is expected to reach the required number before the convention. Rather, the nomination appears likely to be decided at the convention by nearly 800 unpledged "superdelegates," a key constituency that each side is hoping to sway by their performances in Pennsylvania and ensuing nominating contests that conclude on June 3.
According to the Associated Press, Obama led Clinton in total delegates by 1,648 to 1,509 going into today's vote. MSNBC estimated the totals at 1,654 for Obama and 1,513 for Clinton. The delegate counts are a moving target because they include unpledged delegates whose preferences must be continuously monitored.
Pennsylvania also was holding a Republican primary today, but Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has already wrapped up the GOP nomination.
About 4 million Democrats were eligible to vote in their party's closed primary. Both candidates appealed to them in last-minute television ads, campaign stops and dueling appearances on the morning TV news shows.
Appearing to accept polling results that predict a Clinton win in Pennsylvania, Obama today forecast that the campaign would continue until at least June, when Montana and South Dakota hold the last primaries on the Democratic schedule.
"I've come to the conclusion that this race will continue until the last primary or caucus vote is cast, and that's not that far away," Obama told reporters while eating pancakes at a Pittsburgh diner as voters began casting their ballots.